Mayor of Kharkiv sticks to his guns over journalists out of favour


At a City Council meeting today, 21 February, Kharkiv’s Mayor Mykailo Dobkin expressed his views about the work of journalists and those publications in the media which, in his opinion, are not objective in the way they cover his activities.

Mr Dobkin stated that he was interested in broad coverage of the activities of the local authorities. He said that he was ready to put up with any constructive criticism, however he was “not ready only for open lies masquerading as freedom of speech”.

At the same time, speaking on behalf of the faction “Nasha Ukraina”, Andriy Rudenko demanded that accreditation be provided for journalists from the publications of the civic movement Misky dozor [City Watch] who have been waiting for this for many months. He also called for the accreditation to be reinstated of journalist from “Komersant – Ukraine” Maria Spalek.

On 19 February, the City Council press service stated that it had revoked Maria Spalek’s accreditation because her publication “has been persistently misinforming people in Ukraine about the reform of housing and communal services in Kharkiv”.. “Several times in material on this subject there has been unverified information and a slanted approach. All such material was written by the Kharkiv correspondent for the newspaper Maria Spalek and her Kyiv colleague Oleh Havrysh, who together disseminated untruthful information”.  The press service cites one article from 19 February as example, and demands that the information is refuted and a public apology given.

Spalek’s article which has led to her loss of accreditation says that on Friday the government committee on the fuel and energy industry spoke out against the new system of paying for electricity, gas and heating which the Kharkiv authorities have developed.

Maria Spalek asserts that she “used facts and official reports and I am prepared to prove this”.

In its turn the City Council’s website contains a statement from the Deputy Prime Minister Andriy Klyuev which refutes the information circulated on 19 February by “Komersant – Ukraina” about the government committee having spoken out against the new system of paying for electricity, gas and heating proposed by the Kharkiv authorities. Mr Klyuev’s press service states that no commentary was provided on the information circulated in the newspaper and that there was no meaning of the said committee on 19 February.

During the City Council meeting, Mayor Dobkin gave the floor to his press secretary Viktoria Marenych who said that she was “amazed and at the same time disappointed by the position taken by Kharkiv journalists”. “It seems that the Kharkiv journalist community is openly supporting overt lies as one of the foundations of today’s local journalism”.

In her opinion “people have come to journalism in Kharkiv without special training, and they are probably therefore not familiar with the principles of journalist work and the Code of Journalist Ethics.”

She added that on the instructions of deputies of the City Council “the press service can take on organizing and running seminars in other places on the principles of journalist activities and ethics involving in this leading journalists in Ukraine and Russia.” The press secretary said that she hoped that “this will help Kharkiv journalists differentiate between fact and lies”.

As already reported, on 20 February a roundtable of journalists took place in Kharkiv where a statement of protest was issued against the actions of the city authorities in revoking Maria Spalek’s accreditation.

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