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27.07.2007

Regional authorities more relaxed about the media

   

The authorities have become more tolerant of criticism in the mass media however owners of private media outlets have not stopped lobbying their own interests through their outlets. These are some of the conclusions from monitoring carried out by the Laboratory for Legislative Initiatives, the Civic Network OPORA, and the Committee of Voters of Ukraine with the support of the International Renaissance Foundation

The project “Ukraine: a year after the elections. Regional Monitoring” was carried out in 10 regions: Volyn, Lviv, Vinnytsa, Odessa, Donetsk, Sumy, Chernihiv, Chernivtsi, Kharkiv and Kherson regions.

The monitoring covered the following: the structure of the media market (ownership of the media); specific features of the information realm; relations between the authorities and the media; the market system; media pluralism and whether there were influential Internet publications.

“The word “independent” cannot be used about our media since all outlets depend on the authorities or on those financing them”, Ihor Kohut, Chair of the Council of the Laboratory for Legislative Initiatives explained during the presentation of the monitoring results on 25 July. He added that despite some pluralism, media owners continue interfering in the work of the media.

The report mentions that most regions were showing some moves towards privatizing State-owned media outlets, but that it was going very slowly. The biggest problems were print publications under municipal ownership. “In such cases the newspapers depend financially and ideologically on the local authority involved”, the report reads.

There are also problems with private media outlets where there can be a risk of their being politically partisan. This is noted particularly in the Donetsk region where the local elite own the most influential outlets in the region.  While in Lviv the popular and influential newspaper “Postup”, whose owner was effectively the Mayor of the city A. Sadovy, stopped coming out immediately after the successful outcome of the elections for its owner.

Ihor Kohut mentions also that there is a noticeable rise in popularity of Internet publications.

With regard to pressure from the authorities on the media, since the local authorities are the founders of many printed publications, it is they who wield significant influence on the editors and journalists. Pressure is stepped up during elections campaigns.

According to the monitoring, this was most noticeable in the Kharkiv region. “At the end of January, the establishing of relations between the local authorities and journalists took on criminal overtones, with the car of the Chief Editor of a newspaper who is also a deputy of the regional council being set alight. The victim of the arson attack asserts that it was directly linked with his professional activities since his newspaper had sharply criticized certain officials for abuse of power.

Other problems noted for the majority of regions is the low professional level of journalists and the lack of serious analysis.

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