Human Rights in Ukraine. Website of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group
13.12.2002 | Diana Dutsyk, "Telekritika"

Mass media and the civil society


These days the round table "Influence of mass media on developing the civil society" was held in the framework of the Forum of public organizations. The organizers of the event were the Association "Common space" and the Committee "Equality of opportunities" – the organizations well known in journalist and political circles, especially concerning this discussion, which was provoked by Volodymir Litvin during the election campaign.

This round table generated a number of thoughts, maybe too subjective, but… First, I want to draw your attention to some wistful, at least for myself, phenomena. Our society as a whole is still unaware of the ideas of civil society, especially to assess the role of mass media in these processes. Unfortunately, it is confirmed by the level of many public organizations. With the great astonishment I learned that some of them have their own, rather original and quite unprofessional, concept of civil, or, if to follow the Ukrainian laws, social, broadcasting, which is a part of civil society. This concept consists in the thesis: "All public organization must have equal share of the air at the public TV for elucidating their activities". I am unwilling to comment this thesis. It is proper to say here that we, journalists, did not fulfil our function fully. It is mass media, who must conduct such enlightenment. Yet, Ukrainian mass media are now busy with problems of political establishment, and not with problems of civil society.

The announced topic of the round table was not in fact scrutinized. Maybe, it should be discussed in some other format, since it is very specific. Besides, in opinion, it remains until now a theoretical idea, not a practical one. The Ukrainian reality dictates its conditions, and it leaves very little space both for civil society and for independent mass media. Vitaliy Shevchenko, a deputy of the Supreme Rada of the former composition and now a consultant of the parliamentary committee in charge of the freedom of speech, set a very apt question: what importance of mass media for the civil society may be discussed after the recent election, when the people voted contrary to the mass media appeals and recommendations? It is obvious that journalists have very little time to improve the attitude to mass media before the coming presidential election. Today neither opposition nor pro-power political forces do not want mass media to be independent (here I fully agree with Vladimir Skachok, who wrote about this in "Kyivskiy telegraf"), because they need the weapons of mass propaganda in their struggle with each other.

One more thing makes me vigilant. Talking about mass media in the context of the civil society, everybody speaks only about the necessity of creating public broadcasting. Yet, the role of mass media in the development of the civil society is not exhausted by this function. This role must include a wide spectrum of activities, from raising the legal and political culture of the population to understanding this role by journalists themselves.

Karl Deutch, one of the creators of communicative theory, wrote about the importance of the availability in a society of communicative tools, sufficient to make an individual to acknowledge his belonging to the people. The acknowledgment of this relation is an important contribution to shaping a nation, building a democratic state and civil society. People must fell themselves as part and parcel of the community, where they live, to make this community strong. Mass media help to draw an individual to social processes. In fact, mass media is a conductor of information from government to society and on the contrary. Mass media is a connecting link.

Certainly, this is theory. And, certainly, this is an ideal. But there are ideals, which are worth of achievement.

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