The Ukrainian Mass Media: Positive trends against a background of negative aspects


2005 was the best year ever for Ukrainian journalists and the media. Given the recent elections, already now, looking back over the first quarter, one can expect that 2006 will be considerably more problematical. However the trend towards liberalization of conditions for journalists’ work remains on course.

In 2005 the Ukrainian media and journalists worked under new political conditions. The regime had changed in Ukraine at the beginning of the year and the new leaders had declared their commitment to the principles of freedom of speech and of the mass media.

The Institute of Mass Information (IMI) continued using its monitoring of violations of freedom of speech in Ukraine using the same method as in previous years.

The greatest gain made in 2005 was a real reduction in incidents involving pressure on journalists and a lot of new details emerging in prominent cases against journalists.

This can be seen clearly in the following table of violations of freedom of speech over the last 4 years:.





Journalists killed or missing 





Arrests and detentions



Beatings, assault, intimidation





Obstruction in carrying out their work, censorship





Economic, political or indirect pressure





Lawsuits against media outlets or journalists





Complaints lodged by media outlets or journalists





A real achievement is the fact that there were no murders of journalists, nor arrests and detentions. The two cases recorded of journalists being detained happened outside Ukraine.

At the beginning of the year there were a fair number of cases where pressure was put on editors of state and municipal media outlets. This was connected with a change in power in the regions, with the majority of the heads of these outlets being dependent on representatives of the old regime. Nonetheless after public attention was drawn to the situation which constituted a violation of Ukraine’s labour legislation, from May onwards no such incidents were recorded.

The number of lawsuits against journalists fell, and some state officials even withdraw lawsuits previously lodged. The cases involving violations of freedom of speech recorded, as well as the general decrease in their numbers, when compared with the previous year, suggests a lessoning in the level of conflict in the relations between the press and the authorities. Incidents of pressure and intimidation by representatives of the authorities aimed at journalists did still occur, but they concerned particular officials and particular regions, and were not deliberate state policy.

We know of several cases where journalists were not admitted to events in which members of the authorities were participating, however all were explained as due to technical reasons. One can therefore note a significant increase in the level of openness of the new leaders, although particular representatives of the authorities do sometimes demonstrate a lack of respect for the work of journalists.  The areas with the highest level of conflict between the press and the authorities remain the Vinnytsa region where there is a permanent battle between the governor and a municipal publication), as well as the regions of Odessa, Transcarpathia and Rivne.

The greatest criticism would be that none of the prominent crimes against journalists and media outlets in 2005 were finally solved, and none of those responsible brought to justice. This concerns, in particular, the murders of Georgiy Gongadze and Igor Aleksandrov.  Although the IMI succeeded in forcing a review of the murder of the journalist Volodymyr Yefremov, the second investigation dragged on for quite some time and failed to provide an answer to the question of whether his murder was linked with his professional activities, and in particular with the Gongadze case.

However the main problem was the lack of real progress in the majority of cases opened at the request of journalists. Despite statements from the authorities about special control over crimes against journalists and the media and about a shake up among top posts in the police, the majority of cases remained unsolved. The Institute of Mass Information is proposing that the heads of the law enforcement agencies take investigations involving journalists and the media under their personal control.

The main event in the country’s information realm can be said to have been the real improvement in the relations between the press and the authorities, as well as the elimination of censorship at the central state level. In fact most conflict occurred in the regions where the situation remains far from as good as in the nationwide media.

In summary, it should be noted that despite undoubted achievements by the authorities as far as the media is concerned, a system guaranteeing the stability of this situation has still not been created. There have not been real investigations into prominent crimes without which there cannot be full confidence in the declarations of the new leadership. Key laws in the information sphere have still to be passed – on transparency as regards the owners of media outlets, guarantees of non-interference of owners in editorial policy, public broadcasting, etc. Nor has the issue of steps towards privatizing of state and municipal media outlets been resolved. Without such instruments in place, any positive changes in this sphere could as a result prove ephemeral.

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