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04.05.2006

3 May 2006 The Ukrainian Media environment is poised “at zero”, according to an IMI expert

   

This was the assessment provided today at a press conference by leading specialist from the Institute of Mass Information (IMI), the chairperson of the Board of the Centre “Social Dimension”, Serhiy Taran.

He noted that at the present time, while the authorities do not place pressure on the mass media, they do nothing to resolve existing problems. As examples of such problems, Serhiy Taran named the lack of information regarding the owners of media outlets, as well as the fact that officials do not respond to criticism, and journalists still do not have “access to the corridors of power”.

Furthermore in Ukraine at present there is a problem of journalist standards, with information provided being one-sided and not sufficiently balanced; nor do journalists always differentiate between facts and commentary. Serhiy Taran is convinced that such a situation has arisen because the media owners continue to treat the mass media as political projects, and if these owners had a business interest, the situation would be somewhat different.

Other burning issues around the authorities and the mass media include the fact that certain high-profile crimes have still not been solved.  Taran believes that the new leaders have not understood that such a state of affairs can serve to indicate a lack of democracy in Ukraine. It is also bad that in Ukraine public broadcasting has still not been created, despite all the promises from the authorities.  In addition, there is an entire sector of the mass media, that of municipal media outlets, that is in need of reform. The IMI spokesperson stressed that such media outlets exist nowhere else in the world.

In order to resolve these issues, Serhiy Taran suggests creating conditions for a fully-fledged reform of municipal media outlets. He believes that amendments are needed to existing laws, and that conditions need to be created to ensure that the public know who owns this or that media outlet.  Editorial agreements should also have legal force.

Leading IMI lawyer, Roman Holovenko stressed the need for a new version of the Law on Public Broadcasting. He also believes that all issues regarding the activities of the mass media during the elections need to be resolved. He also proposes having an overall ban on offshore companies being owned by legal entities involved in the mass media, as well as providing a definition in the Law “On information” of “information of public significance”.

As Serhiy Taran emphasized, a very large number of issues requiring resolution await the new parliament. Issues involving the press and the authorities, however, need to be resolved not only by the Verkhovna Rada. There also needs to be a public position from journalists. This position will serve as a safeguard against any possible pressure on the mass media in the future, and guarantee that “temnyki”[1] will not appear again. He believes also that there should be a journalists’ lobby in executive bodies.



[1]  “temnyki”  under Kuchma’s regime were instructions issued by the authorities to media outlets on what to cover and how, and what to quietly ignore (translator’s note)

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