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10.06.2010

Methods of censorship becoming more subtle

   

In its monitoring of violations of journalist standards in central television channel news broadcasts, “Telekritika” reports that the number of items which suggest that they have been commissioned is steadily increasing. So too is the frequency with which information which is of public importance, but inconvenient for the government, is not mentioned.

Telekritika has been monitoring the news on 8 leading TV channels on a weekly basis for some time as part of an Internews Network “Y-Media” project aimed at monitoring journalist standards and increasing media literacy among the public.

 During May in the daily news summaries, the numbers of suspect items suggesting commissioned nature (censorship) or items not mentioned, can be broken down as follows: 

Channel

Number of commissioned items or those avoided

ICTV

112

National TV – UTV1

96

«Inter»

94

«1+1»

78

«Ukraina»

49

Novy Kanal

42

STB

22

Channel 5 *

18

 *  For technical reasons Channel 5 was monitored only from 24 May, hence the low figure in the rating (if one takes average weekly figures the number would be lower than for 1+1, but higher than “Ukraina”.

 The vast majority of commissioned items were of a political nature, with the number advertising business structures relatively low (and on UTV1, Inter and Channel 5 none was found)

 Political commissioned material has a number of features. Channels follow two parallel campaigns: “the good government” and the “bad opposition”. Most effort is given by the censors to pushing the “successes” and “correct course” of the “good government”. Their internal and foreign policy actions are covered, together with their position. The channels do not report on the affairs of the opposition, let alone about their views regarding the key events of the month. They are mentioned only if they illustrate the idea of the opposition being diffuse and divided.  They carefully choose either purely emotional ideas from members of the opposition or those which concern unimportant aspects of an issue. In other words, with the help of this simple method, the viewers should develop contempt for the opposition who “don’t know themselves what they want”, “can’t agree among themselves”, etc. 

Канал

«Good government»

«Bad opposition»

ICTV

72

14

National TV – UTV1

69

13

Inter

70

10

«1+1»

55

12

«Ukraina»

30

12

Novy Kanal

19

6

STB

5

2

Channel 5

13

1

 NB The sum total does not necessarily coincide with the overall figures since some features may develop both ideas.

 Main topics with the above propaganda positions

1. Ukrainian – Russian political dialogue. The channels actively promoted the position that all agreements of the leaders of the country with Russia are competent, correct, with good prospects and advantageous for Ukraine.

2.  A large number of items around 9 May pushed nostalgia for the “good old Soviet days” and also the idea that “Ukraine and Russia are brother-peoples”. Staff of State-owned television channels were advised not to mention the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists – Ukrainian Resistance Army during this period.

3. «The government is working and taking care of everything». During the month television viewers were subjected to non-critical coverage of events and decisions by the government with the floor being given to its representatives (mainly Yanukovych, Kolesnikov, Azarov, Tihipko, Semynozhenko and Tabachnyk). There was a significant increase in news items lacking in substance presenting formal actions of the government – meetings, councils, working visits.

4. «The divided opposition». Even such information pretexts as the creation of the Save Ukraine Committee were used to transmit facts and opinions reiterating the idea of contradictions and disunity in opposition ranks. The theme was systematically pushed that the opposition should be “strong but constructive”, with Yatsenyuk’s party and other smaller parties being presented as an example and alternative to BYuT [Tymoshenko].

Opposition protests were covered in such a way as to seem small in number with those taking part doing so for money. With regard to the blocking by police of road transport and ban on selling railway ticket to Kyiv on the eve of the Save Ukraine Committee protest on 12 May only STB and 1+1 reported. Other channels were silent about actions as a result of which thousands of members of the public suffered. “Inter” did not mention the protest at all, talking about Yanukovych’s trip to Lviv on 27 May.

5. «Criminalized opposition». The idea was actively pushed that in the events in parliament on 27 April only the opposition was to blame. Another theme was the accusations against Tymoshenko’s government of misusing public money from the Prosecutor General and Accounting Chamber. Both these themes were assiduously pushed by a number of channels throughout the month.

6. “Under the previous government everything was bad, under the new – everything is becoming good.”  Key themes are Euro-2012 and additions to pensions, while the intentions of the government to seek another load from the IMF was scarcely mentioned, and not at all commented on. During the election campaign Yanukovych and his team constantly accused Tymoshenko’s government of excessive loans.

 Another important proof of censorship is the avoidance of topics which are complex or inconvenient for the government. Sometimes specific facts are left out.  

Channel

No. of avoided topics or facts

National TV – UTV1

18

Inter

16

ICTV

15

Novy Kanal

15

«Ukraina»

13

«1+1»

8

STB

8

Channel 5

1

 Here the most telling example was the coverage of events in Kharkiv  where over a number of days the authorities, abetted by the police, crushed peaceful protest (cf. Lawless start to Euro-2012 and the appeal here http://www.khpg.org.ua/en/index.php?id=1275908780

On 28 May only “Ukraina”, Channel 5 and Inter reported the detention of 12 people and escalating confrontation.  Of these three channels only Channel 5 worried about balance, while Inter quoted only the police and “Ukraina” too voices for the construction against one comment from a protester.

On 1 June, two channels – STB and TRC “Ukraina” found a more important event, showing how a dinosaur park was set up on the central square in Kharkiv.  The other channels found nothing of interest in Kharkiv.

On 2 June, after guards and the police broke up the protest, channels reported the events, however the coverage was not comprehensive.

 Methods of censorship have thus become much more subtle than in Kuchma’s time or during the election campaign.

Now censorship is achieved mainly through “correct” choice of material – facts and commentary. The channels virtually don’t resort to more obvious methods like value judgements from journalists, failure to separate opinion and fact, and accuracy and exactness are almost not used for propaganda purposes.

Two interrelated standards are of particular importance – balance of views which involves not just hearing all the parties’ arguments, but also qualified expert assessments. Channels have stopped seeking expert opinions altogether.

Another vital area is fullness of information, including the background. Channels often ignore this for the sake of propping up their “good government” theme, and do not mention important facts which would destroy this.

Slightly abridged from the report at: http://www.telekritika.ua/media-continent/monitoring/medialiteracy/2010-06-09/53532

 

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