Presidential pool of trusted journalists at the taxpayers’ expense
In his article “Viktor Yanukovych’s Press Pool – at the Taxpayers’ Expense”, Serhiy Leshchenko reports that President Yanukovych is accompanied on his travels by representatives of the same TV channels: the State-owned UTV-1; Inter (part of the media group owned by Valery Khoroshkovsky, Head of the Security Service]; TV Ukraina (owned by Regions Party MP and billionaire, Renat Akhmetov); ICTV (owned by Victor Pinchuk, son-in-law of Leonid Kuchma) and 1 + 1. UTV-1 and Inter have, over the last year and a half competed for ignominious first place in terms of information muffled and other infringements of journalist standards. ICTV has normally been in third place, though 1 + 1 has also appeared there.
Serhiy Leshchenko writes that there are no Ukrainian language publications which go on these trips, paid for out of the taxpayer’s pocket. The two newspapers most often invited are the versions for Ukraine of the Russian newspapers Komsomolskaya Pravda and Izvestia, both pitched for readers in the East of Ukraine.
The author notes that under previous administrations, journalists always flew together with the President so as not to be too much of a burden on public funding. This changed last year, and journalists whom Yanukovych chooses to accompany him are now bought tickets on scheduled flights. The money for this comes from the public coffers.
STB which has increasingly been noted as showing the most balance of nationwide channels has only been on one out of 14 foreign trips.
Channel 5 which is trying to distance itself from political battles has been on two trips.
The list of newspapers whose correspondents have been on such foreign visits also shows clear political bias and / or favours the outlets owned by people close to the ruling party.
In response to an information request from Ukrainska Pravda, the President’s Administration said that the President’s press pool was chosen solely on the basis of press ratings. The author shows the press ratings cited for the first half of 2011. That list and the list of media outlets whose representatives have accompanied the President do not tally.
Serhiy Leshchenko’s article is published in Ukrainian here: http://www.pravda.com.ua/articles/2011/11/15/6756722/