Censorship in a free country


The presentation of Ihor Chaika’s documentary film in the Kyiv House of Cinema was attended by those not so numerous colleagues who still want to talk about journalist freedom in the bloom of the “jeans”* days  At least it would appear that besides colleagues, nobody else felt the need for such films. As though the problem no longer exists, whereas in fact, the film suggests quite the contrary.

The film focuses on incidents involving flagrant violations of journalists’ rights during the last parliamentary campaign which contrast unfavourably with the statements of the President about the importance of freedom, of the role of journalism, of the heroism of people in our profession, etc. Are they suggesting that the Head of the State is guilty of putting pressure on journalists?! The author of the film holds precisely this view. “It’s he who promised the freedom that we don’t at present have”, Chaika explains.  “I didn’t add anything from myself and used only facts and comments from experts. My conclusion is that since Kuchma’s time nothing has changed in journalism. The same pressure, unsolved cases, fear … And the film proves that”.  Victoria Syumar, the Executive Director of the Institute of Mass Information considers that the post-Revolution freedom in the country is still incomplete.  “I agree that there is considerably more freedom. The question is what level it’s appeared on, and what level it hasn’t. It should be said that there is freedom at the central level. There, where it depends on the President, there is no interference in the activities of the mass media.  The authorities really have not interfered and deserve credit for this.  However they cannot boast about what they promised to do, yet have not done. Like not having promoted public broadcasting. Experts state that the catalyst for changes in the media must be the political will of the authorities, and this at present is lacking. After all talk about public television remains words.

The dog barks but the caravan keeps on going
Chaika’s film is more really about fear of the existing journalist “freedom” in the country, than about benefit from it, and about its triumphant march as promised during the Revolution. Serhiy Huz, Head of the Independent Media Trade Union explains the pressure and threats addressed at journalists as being due to the still existent unspoken ban on certain subjects. One of these is the income or means of high-level politicians, businesspeople and their families.  “If any regional journalist even attempts to really carry out an investigation into the business interests of the Mayor, or his family, the journalist is immediately shut up. It is even more risky than investigating the President’s family. At the local level such investigations can quite simply put the journalist’s life in danger. This is a major problem since it is essentially real censorship”.  It creates a situation where journalists have received the right to cover what they like, yet remain trapped, since the threats and serious fear for their own life and the well-being of their relatives prevents them from engaging in professional journalism.  Despite this, a large number of publications do appear in the press about violations committed by state officials which receive wide publicity.  However there is no appropriate reaction to these publications. Legislation is flawed, judges corrupt, and politicians mercenary.

Ihor Chaika’s previous film “Jeans" Freedom did not find any takers among television channels. The latter have thus far shown no interest in this latest documentary film. It would appear that as in the old and not particularly good days we could reach a point where journalist writing is discussed mainly by journalists themselves, and where such films are circulated “from hand to hand”. Like we did once with “Face of protest”. That was also not given broadcasting time despite the numerous signatures from journalists calling for one of the channels to show it. It is really only us who need it?”

Ihor Chaika promises that the journalist associations will ensure that copies of this film are circulated. “And if any television company expresses interest, I will willingly provide a copy for it to be shown to a wider audience”.

The Media Trade Union

*  The word "джинса" more or less translates as "jeans", however refers to journalists writing "news" to order.

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