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Journalists define Ukraine’s main problems

An absolute majority (84%) of journalists surveyed consider reform of the judiciary to be one of the highest priorities for society.

This was one of the results of a survey carried out by the “Democratic Initiatives” Centre on commission from the USAID Program “Ukraine: the Rule of Law”. The findings were presented during a roundtable by the “Democratic Initiatives” Centre’s research director, Iryna Bekeshkina.

Most of the journalists (72%) also believed that in the area of judicial reform, nothing was being done. 91% are convinced that one of the tasks of the press is to provide coverage for the issue of judicial reform.

At the same time, 58% of the journalists surveyed acknowledged that these problems receive little coverage in the Ukrainian media. The main reasons for this were seen as being the lack of understanding of journalists of the issues (65%), the non-commercial nature of such material (40%) and the lack of interest in them from the broader public (31%).

There are most often reports in the press about specific court cases (70%), negative material about judges (35%) and extremely rarely or not at all is there educational material regarding the work of the judiciary and its problems in Ukraine (3%), as well as discussion of the direction needed in reforming the system (6%).

Far  more negative material is presented about the judicial system (67%),  than positive (6%). In the eyes of members of the media, the Ukrainian court system looks extremely bad. 95% of those surveyed are convinced that members of the public either absolutely or largely distrust the court system and the latter basically deserves this because it has a serious problem – corruption (this was the opinion of 99% of the journalists). The main form of corruption in the courts was deemed by 97% of the journalists to be bribe-taking.

In material on issues around the courts and judiciary, different points of view were very rare or not presented at all  (63% of those surveyed). 95% of the journalists think that the judiciary is closed to public scrutiny. Therefore 75% suggest creating at each court a service or appointing a specific person responsible for liaising with journalists and the public. 55% said that relations between judges and journalists were unfriendly.

The main factors which prevent normal relations are, according to the journalists, the corruption of judges (69%), the lack of openness of the courts (58%) and the lack of knowledge among journalists of the issues of court proceedings (46%).

To develop constructive relations between judges and journalists, the respondents believe that the following are needed: more openness of the judiciary (73%),; a rise in the professional development and level of knowledge of journalists about court proceedings (67%), the introduction of a system of press secretaries in courts or appointment of a specific person responsible for liaising with journalists and the public (52%); placing all material pertaining to court cases on court websites (52%). Journalists were honest in rating their own level awareness on issues of reform of the judiciary in Ukraine as inadequate (77%), while 84% believe that this knowledge is needed for their journalist work.

This in the first instance applies to the directions for reform of the judiciary (68%), of civil law (48%), and criminal proceedings (44%).

The survey was carried out between 22 December 2006 and 22 January 2007. 207 journalists working on social and political subjects in different regions were questioned. There was a wide range of journalist status, with chief editors of publications and well-known Ukrainian journalists and members of the media from regional, city and district publications.

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