Censorship returns to UT1
The television program “Toloka”, which yesterday appeared with opposition leaders Tymoshenko and Kyrylenko has been cancelled on the First National Television channel [UT-1].
The repeat of the program scheduled for this morning (20 March) did not appear. The programs producer Viktor Pavlyuk was told by the Director of UT-1 Vitaly Dokalenko that not only was the repeat not going to be shown, but that the program “Toloka” was being cancelled altogether.
“Toloka” was the only political live talk show on UT-1. The program has been coming out for a year, and according to its producer until today there had been no pressure placed on them. Yesterdays program included the leaders of the opposition Yulia Tymoshenko and Viacheslav Kyrylenko, and its producer believes that this is the reason why it has been cancelled. “Seemingly difficult times for freedom of speech are coming in Ukraine”, Viktor Pavlyuk says.
The Director of UT-1 Vitaly Dokalenko confirmed that the program is being taken off the air but denied that there had been any pressure from the Cabinet of Ministers. He claims that the program is being cancelled due to the lack of professionalism of the presenter. With regard to the last program, Dokalenko said: “I had serious criticism of how the program was prepared, how it was run by the presenter and how the interaction was organized. I tried to phone on both telephone lines but couldnt get through”.
It should be mentioned that members of the ruling coalition have on several occasions criticized the State television channel for its editorial policy. Criticism has come in particular from the First Deputy Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada Oleksandr Moroz.
Andriy Shevchenko, Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information has called the cancellation of the program a “senseless return to the times of temnyky and censorship” [temnyky were the instructions issued to journalists on what to cover and how, which disappeared after the Orange Revolution – translator]
Shevchenko considers Dokalenkos arguments about lack of professionalism by the presenter to be unconvincing. “”When you talk about a channel where you could make the same criticism of the absolute majority of programs, that sounds to me like a pitiful excuse”.
He believes the decision to cancel the program to be politically motivated and links it with the fact that the program on UT-1 last night presented a very strong opposition led by Yulia Tymoshenko and Viacheslav Kyrylenko.
“I know definitely that the program last night really annoyed some people in the Party of the Regions. For me the only question is who came down on Dokalenko over it”, Andriy Shevchenko added.