Unofficial state censorship at the Ukrainian TV (Research of Human Rights Watch: January 2003)


Human Rights Watch. European and Central Asian department
web-site address:
The complete Ukrainian text of the research may be found by the address:  
Contents of the research

І. Resume
ІІ. Political background
ІІІ. Mass information background
ІІІ.1. Radio and TV broadcasting
ІІІ.2. Printed editions
ІІІ.3. Internet-media
ІІІ.4. Restrictions of the freedom of expression
IV. Unofficial state censorship by means of “temniks”
IV.1. History of “temniks”
IV.2. Sources of “temniks”
IV.3. Form of “temniks”
IV.4. Topics of “temniks
IV.4.1. Representation of Kuchma
IV.4.2. The freedom of speech
IV.4.3. Activities of the Social-Democratic Party (united)
IV.4.4. Representation of oppositional politicians
IV.4.5. Activities of political parties
V. Influence of “temniks” on the freedom of expression
V.1. Changes of editorial policy and increase of danger for journalists
V.2. Self-censorship
V.3. Restriction of the activities of TV companies
VІ. Recommendations

Appendices: samples of “temniks”

In what follows we present the first section of the research and the appendices


Although the official censorship, which had been practiced Ukraine in the Soviet times, stopped to exist since 1991, when the country became independent, the unofficial censorship is still practiced. The mass media, which express critical opinions about state officials or other outstanding persons, undergo frequent tax inspections, are deprived of licenses on the basis of formal grounds, libel claims are handed against them; journalists are attacked or have other serious problems. This report informs about one more form of the unofficial censorship: secret recommendations that are compiled by President’s Administration and distributed among managers and editors of national TV companies and some newspapers. These recommendations, the so-called “temniks”, contain the instructions concerning the contents and character of the communicated news. Editors-in-chief are afraid of the consequences of disobedience, so they follow the instructions, thus restricting the activities of journalists.

As a rule, the officials state that they know nothing about “temniks” and have no concern with these documents. However, Ukrainian journalists, analysts of mass media and some outstanding political figures unanimously assert that these instructions are sent from the Administration of the President. Editors obtain the instructions, which demand to elucidate the news in the way that represents President Kuchma and the pro-Presidential Social-Democratic Party of Ukraine (united) (SDPU (u)) in the most favorable light and discredits the oppositional political figures and parties.

In October 2002 the organization “Human Rights Watch”, which carries out the surveillance over the observance of human rights, conducted the research concerning the unofficial political censorship. The researchers interviewed the workers of TV companies, state officials and analysts of mass media. We paid special attention to the influence of “temniks” on TV news, since TV is the most widespread and influential form of mass media in Ukraine. We put our questions to ten representatives of administrations of five national TV companies and one Kyiv company, including chief editors, editors of features, reporters, presenters of TV features and correspondents. Besides, we examined seven “temniks” for different weeks at the end of 2001 and 2002. “Human Rights Watch” got the “temniks” from the sources connected with the administrations of leading TV companies.

For the first time “temniks” were passed to several mass media in September-October 2001 before the election to the Supreme Rada, which had to be conducted in March 2002. Editors, journalists and analysts of mass media informed that in August 2002 “temniks” had been already got by all companies and the obedience to the instructions was stimulated with phone calls and threats. “Temniks” became widely known after Mykola Tomenko, the head of the Supreme Rada Committee in charge of the freedom of speech and information, publicly proclaimed their existence.

“Temniks” undermined the freedom of speech in Ukraine. Editors and journalists had to obey the instructions of “temniks” because of economic and political pressure and because they were afraid of consequences of the refusal to cooperate. The mass media, which supported the opposition political parties or refused to obey the official demands, underwent tax checks, deprival of licenses and libel claims, which endangered the existence of the mass media and sometimes resulted in their complete liquidation. The journalists, who dared to express independent opinions, were transferred to lower posts with the lower salary or were fired. Troubles and violence experienced by journalists even before the appearance of “temniks” made an important contribution to the atmosphere of fear that forced the journalists to follow the directives. The most shocking incident was the murder of openly oppositional journalist Georgiy Gongadze in September 2000, the murder, with which, as it was suspected later, President Leonid Kuchma and other top state officials were connected.

Unsuccessful reforms and economic depression made mass media and journalists very dependent on the sponsorship of political and financial blocs, which used mass media as mouthpiece of their interests. This situation is especially obvious as regards the TV companies. One out of six national TV companies in Ukraine belongs to state, two belong to the leaders of SDPU (u) and are influenced by President’s Administration, three other companies are mainly financed by Leonid Kuchma’s son-in-law. The work of the national Council in charge of TV and radio broadcasting, the most influential organ that regulates the activities of Ukrainian mass media (and the only one that gives them licenses), is insufficiently transparent and is imposed to the paralyzing political pressure.

“Temniks” and other methods of exerting pressure on the work of TV companies transformed the process of communicating news. Earlier journalists, correspondents and editors had some opportunity to settle the contents of news by themselves, but now they must discuss in details all aspects of all texts and features with editors-in-chief or top administration in order to guarantee the observance by the TV company of the instructions of President’s Administration passed to them through “temniks”, phone calls and other unofficial channels. Some managers of TV companies, just to be on the safe side, liquidated political features and analytical shows at all. Too unruly journalists were transferred to the lower posts in the same companies, where their disobedience would be less noticeable. Under such conditions journalists are practicing self-censorship, because they understand which materials will be accepted and which will be prohibited. Now all TV news are pro-presidential, so, taking into account the popularity of TV in the country, the state censorship hampers the access of Ukrainian citizens to the objective information.


Appendix 1.

PRESS RELEASE, 13 September 2002, 17:00


It is recommended to keep to the following order of elucidation of the events on today evening news:

1. To begin the news with the information that in this moment the concert-requiem devoted to the commemoration of the victims of the tragedy of 11 September 2001 is conducted. President Leonid Kuchma is present at the concert.

2. The Internet-conference of President L. Kuchma was hold. Commentary. At the Internet-conference the President presented a number of important statements. The main theses:

-  L. Kuchma will leave his post in 2004;

-  L. Kuchma is sure that Ukraine, as well as the whole world, does not need dictatorship;

-  L. Kuchma believes that the power is ready for the dialog with society, but the society is not ready for it. “Openness of power is a two-way road”.

3. Development of the situation connected with the planned actions of 16 September.

A) In the evening. On 12 September the Shevchenkivskiy district court of Kyiv prohibited the action planned by the Bloc of Yulia Timoshenko, Socialist Party and Communist Party to be conducted on 16 September in the downtown of the capital. The decision is final and may not be appealed. Commentary.  According to the court decision, the participants of the action of 16 September may not gather in the downtown of Kyiv. Apparently, the actions of the BYT, SPU and CPU will be conducted, in accordance with the decision of Kyiv authorities, at the motor-racing circuit “Chayka” in the outskirts of Kyiv. The supporters of the President will carry out their meetings at Glushkov Avenue. As to “Chayka”, mass actions were conducted here more than once. One of the most famous actions was the solemn public worship by Pope John Paul II in 2001. This action was well-organized and there were no excesses.

NВ. It is recommended to use the archive materials about the public worship. Picture: militia, motor ambulance, bio-lavatories. To mention the number of the participants of both actions.

B) On 13 September the councils of the Donetsk, Kharkov and Ternopil oblasts adopted at their extraordinary sittings the appeals on the action of 16 September.

Commentary. An important and urgent event.

NB. The texts of the appeals will be distributed in the nearest future.

C) The Presidium of the Council of the Federation of trade unions of Ukraine adopted at its sitting the resolution, in which it regarded the support of the actions of 16 September as inexpedient and recommended to the chairman of the FTU to refrain from participation “in this and other political actions” (see the supplement).

Commentary. An important and urgent event.

NB. It is recommended to point out, when quoting the text of the resolution, that it was signed by chairman of the FTU A. Stoyan and to show his photo or some video records.

D) The Lviv oblast committee of the CPU stated that they would take part on the actions of 16 September because of the provocative statements of a number of MPs having the nationalistic moods.

Comment. An urgent event.

E) Head of the Administration of the President V. Medvedchuk presented the comment on the events of 16 September.

Commentary. An important and urgent event.

NB. It is recommended to adduce the complete text.

4. The State Tax Administration of Ukraine commented the fact of detention of an assistant of MP A. Turchinov (BYT) with a great sum in cash.

Commentary. An acute and urgent event.

NB. The video record of the detention will be distributed. It is recommended to elucidate the event in details.

5. On 11-13 September General Prosecutor of Ukraine S. Piskun visited Strasbourg with a formal call after the invitation of General Secretary of the Council of Europe V. Shwimmer. S. Piskun met the heads of the Council of Europe, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, “Venetian commission”, delivered the speech at the Bureau of the Committee of Ministers (see the supplement).

Commentary. An important and urgent event.

6. Explosion in a mine was prevented in the Lviv oblast. The head of the oblast militia directorate conducted a press conference.

Commentary. An important and urgent event. According to the information of Lviv militia directorate, no connection exists between the incident and the actions of 16 September.

NB. The video record with the comments of representatives of law-enforcing organs of the Lviv oblast will be distributed. It is recommended to elucidate the event in details.

7. On 13 September the sitting of the collegium of the Ministry of Emergency Situations with the participation of Minister V. Durdinets was conducted in Uzhgorod (Zakarpatskaya oblast). The sitting concerned the questions of liquidating the consequences of flood.

Commentary. For the notice of editorial boards.

8. MP Yu. Karmazin declared that he got the information about the location of G. Gongadze’s head.

Commentary. Is absent.

Appendix 2.

additional commentary to the events of the week.

for service use only

The main topic of the week:

1. The Supreme Rada of Ukraine will begin its new session from the discussion of the TV appeal of President L. Kuchma to the Ukrainian people.

For service use only. It is recommended to obtain the comments about forming the composition of the coalition government from the representatives of fractions, political parties and public organizations, but not from the members of the acting Cabinet of Ministers. It is not recommended to concentrate the attention on the draft of the law “On the election of people’s deputies of Ukraine” presented by MPs Yu. Ioffe and G. Dashutin.


2. Participation of President L. Kuchma in the World summit on the questions of stable development in Johannesburg (Republic of South Africa).

For service use only. During the elucidation of the bilateral meetings it is recommended to concentrate the attention on the intercommunication of the President with the representatives of European political elite. To elucidate the meetings with the leaders of African countries in the external-economic context after the additional agreement.

topics for elucidation in sunday news

4. Reaction of the society and politicians to the appeal of President L. Kuchma to the Ukrainian people of 24 August 2002.

For service use only. It is recommended to use in the newspaper materials the text of the public letter of V. Yushchenko to the President and his article published in “Zerkalo nedeli” (31 August 2002) in order to demonstrate the contradictions in the position of “Nasha Ukraina” concerning the TV appeal of L. Kuchma. On the one hand, “NU” states that the bloc for a long time considered necessary the transition to the Parliamentary-Presidential republic, and on the other hand it points out that any changes of the political system would be untimely now, since both the society and the political sphere are not ready for this. On the one hand, “NU” protests against the interference of President’s Administration to the structurization of the Parliament, and on the other hand it asks President to assist in forming the majority on the basis of “NU”. So, which statements of V. Yushchenko are true? Probably, such contradictory reaction of V. Yushchenko evidences his nervousness caused by the real prospects to loose the chance to occupy the President’s post.

The position of the SDPU (u) concerning the political reform should be presented in the usual information regime.

The attention should not be concentrated on the initiatives of some politicians connected with the conduction of referendum on the questions of the transition to the Parliamentary-Presidential system.

The conflict of E. Chervonenko and O. Rybachuk should not be elucidated.

It is not recommended to inform about the number of MPs, who allegedly agreed to join the Parliamentary majority.

It is recommended to illustrate the appeals of the political forces, which support the President, about the friendship with “NU” only with the statements of S. Tigipko, and not of other commentators.

prolonged topics:

6. Opposition prepares for the conduction of street actions on 16 September.

For service use only. This is a topic for printed and Internet editions only. It is recommended not to elucidate the topic on TV.

The informational work on the so-called “Forum of democratic forces” will be conducted after the following logical scheme:

-  In fact, the forum is a meeting of the appointed representatives of the parties.

-  Not all forces that are going to take part in the action may be called “democratic” (e. g. the Social Nationalistic party of O. Tiagnibok).

-  Yushchenko must exclude the people, who are far from democracy, from the list of the participants, to elaborate the rules of participation in the forum. In this case actually democratic forces will be ready to take part in the action.

-  If V. Yu. would not do this, he risks to discredit the forum in the opinion of public.

-  If V. Yu. would “purge” the list and would make public the procedure of its compilation, then scores of various parties and organizations would direct the letters with the applications for the participation in the forum. As a result, the opportunity of muddling the action appears, and the action risks to become ridiculous.

7. The General Prosecutor’s office of Ukraine continues the investigation of resonant cases.

For service use only. It is recommended to keep up thoroughly with the informational occasions given by the General Prosecutor’s office. It is not recommended to distort the information presented by the General Prosecutor’s office, all official formulations should be retained.

9. On 1-14 September the joint Ukrainian-Britain battalion maneuvers with shooting “Kazatskiy express-2002” will be conducted in the framework of the NATO program “Partnership for the sake of peace”. The maneuvers will take place on the Yavorivske polygon of the Western operational commandment.

For service use only. It is not recommended to concentrate the attention on the fact of combat shooting. The video records should be showed demonstrating the military in a favorable light.


2 September, Monday

11. The Day of Knowledge is celebrated in Ukraine.

For service use only. The excessive demonstration of deputies’ congratulations is not recommended. The state officials responsible for the education sphere should be shown.

13. At 10:00 the ceremony of unveiling the Ukrainian-Hungarian institute of informational technologies named after Arpad Gents will begin.

For service use only. It is recommended to ignore the event.

17. The grand meeting devoted to the beginning of 2002-2003 school year will be conducted.

For service use only. The recommendations on the elucidation of the event will be provided additionally.

18. At 11:00 the press conference “Stand up, Ukraine!” will begin.

For service use only. It is recommended to ignore the event.

19. The Commission on journalists’ ethics and the public organization “Khartiya-4” are resuming their regional tours around Ukraine. On 2-3 September the representatives of the commission will visit Lviv.

For service use only. It is recommended to ignore the event.

20. At 13:00 the press conference of the publishing house “Taki spravy” will begin. The topic: “Tax officers began the concrete actions directed at the misappropriation of the property of the publishing house “Taki spravy”.

For service use only. It is recommended to ignore the event.

3 September, Tuesday

27. At 15:00 the “round table” will begin devoted to the discussion of the political reform in Ukraine.

For service use only. It is recommended to avoid the elucidation of any theses that call into question the seriousness of President’s initiatives.

32. 40 days passed since the air accident at the airdrome Skynliv.

For service use only. It is recommended to ignore the attempts of some political parties to turn this date into a political show.

Human Rights Watch


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