Ukrainian journalists tell Reporters without Borders of censorship
One of the most important points which journalists focused on in their meeting on Monday with the delegation from Reporters without Borders was that the system for establishing censorship was taking place at the level of legislation. They mentioned the adoption of the law on personal data (which effectively prevents divulgence of any information without a person’s consent, even their name – translator), the failure of the draft law on reducing the time frame for answer information requstions and the drawing up of a fictitious draft law on “public broadcasting” (see: khpg.org/index.php?id=1278359988) The journalists also expressed concern over the new draft law from the Prime Minister on registration of all Internet publications as information agencies.
Despite the fact that the meeting with the authorities and RWB did not take place, Ukrainian journalists were able to give their colleagues time. During the meeting which lasted more than an hour, the Secretary General of Reporters without Borders, Jean-Francois Jouard and his colleague, the Head of the Europe Section Elsa Vidal, spoke with Ukrainian journalists. The message from all was that strict control is swiftly being imposed on all types of media.
Viktoria Syumar, from the Institute for Mass Information, told them that the situation since President Yanukovych came to power has changed radically and that they were seeing attempts to establish systematic control on the information sphere. She said that the President had authorized one man to be involved in all policy in the media realm. This was Valery Khoroshkovsky, Head of the Security Service [SBU] and owner of 9 television channels including the most popular in Ukraine – Inter. Journalists had told them she added, of news stories being agreed, when one and the same news item, one and the same script were shown on different television channels. In addition, she stressed, Khoroshkovsky has influence on the State Television and Radio Broadcasting Channel which issues and removes licences. The majority of the present members are his former employees.
She believes that journalists have not fully appreciated the problem with the new laws and draft laws which when they come into force will have journalists simply held to answer for carrying out their professional duty to circulate information.
Two journalists from “Ukrainska Pravda” – Serhiy Leshchenko and Mustafa Naiem – said that the President’s Administration is very fussy in choosing journalists working in the President’s pool of journalists during international meetings. Journalists who are critical of the new authorities are not allowed in. Leshchenko stressed that these events take place on taxpayers’ money and must be transparent.
They noted also that on Journalists’ Day the President made State awards to certain loyal journalists.
They also reported the worrying cases of attacks on journalists, including that on Serhiy Andrushko (cf. khpg.org/index.php?id=1279105392 and the links below) and Serhiy Kutrakov from Novy Channel (khpg.org/index.php?id=1278982428) the removal of licences from TVi and Channel 5 (see: khpg.org/index.php?id=1276215555 and below).
Serhiy Leshchenko said that members of the new regime far more often refuse to provide information. Formal information requests over the situation with Niko Lange (cf. khpg.org/index.php?id=1277927174) have not been answered.
The journalists said that on some television channels, even the representatives of top management were taking part in putting together and editing especially important items concerning the President and members of the new regime.