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15.04.2011

Media Union: Government intimidates media owners and they intimidate journalists

   

The Kyiv Independent Media Trade Union has issued a statement in support of the strike by journalists from Kyiv Post in protest over the outrageous dismissal of Chief Editor Brian Bonner. The newspaper’s owner Muhammad Zahoor has used arbitrary methods to remove an experienced journalist and the head of the newspaper’s journalist team purely because Mr Bonner refused to carry out an absurd instruction and withdraw an interview which was inconvenient for the owner. This is flagrant interference in editorial policy.

The Media Union points to a dangerous tendency which has developed in Ukraine. This is the second recent case where the Chief Editor has been dismissed from his point. Two weeks ago the same happened with Serhiy Tykhy, Chief Editor of Gazeta po-kievski which is part of the Privat Group, owned by Ihor Kolomoisky. In order to push Mr Tykhy out, the owners did not balk at such shameful actions as suspending publication of the newspaper.

References to economic indicators are entirely spurious. Although not without some problems, both publications have been doing quite well.

The real reasons for fighting highly-professional Chief Editors lie elsewhere. A semi-authoritarian regime has been created in Ukraine where even the richest have to please those in power. They have to gag media outlets under their control, otherwise the success of their business could be in danger, since the government’s displeasure can be directed against the media owners themselves.

The assurances given by President Yanukovych of his support for an independent media are hypocritical with him declaring one thing, and doing something entirely different. He issued a statement in support of Gazeta po-kievski, yet didn’t lift a finger to prevent the arbitrary treatment of its Chief Editor.

In this way the regime is putting pressure on and intimidating media owners, and they in turn are pressurizing and intimidating the chief editors and editorial teams.

Head of the Kyiv Independent Media Trade Union, Yury Lukanov comments: “if it’s so easy to remove the Chief Editor, how much more so ordinary journalists. Journalists need to realize that they can only counter such political pressure through showing solidarity in protest. Tomorrow any colleague could end up in Brian Bonner or Serhiy Tykhy’s place. 

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