Protest over sacking of “Segodnya” Chief Editor Ihor Huzhva
Following the conflict at the newspaper “Segodnya” owned by billionaire Party of the Regions MP Renat Akhmetov which broke out in early December, on 17 January the supervisory council announced its decision to dismiss the Chief Editor Ihor Huzhva, while the General Director of the holding Segodnya Multimedia is to leave of her own volition. Ihor Huzhva is planning to appeal against the dismissal, while Olena Hromytska has filed a civil suit against him.
As reported, journalists from the newspaper threatened in early December to go on strike, accusing the new Director General Olena Hromnytska of trying to censor the content on the Internet site and the printed version of the paper and to publish commissioned articles.
They stated then: “It has become usual practice to remove, on Hromnytska’s direct instructions, material from our site regarding various figures, for example, the Mayor of Odessa Oleksy Kostusev, the President’s Adviser Hanna Herman. There has been pressure on the Chief Editor of Segodnya to avoid the appearance of “inconvenient” publications regarding specific politicians and businessmen. At the same time articles have begun to appear as editorial material which were previously published as advertising material (the latest example was businessman Dmitry Firtash’s speech to the Congress of Employers)”.
On Tuesday 17 January just over half of the Segodnya editorial team issued a signed statement protesting against the dismissal of Ihor Huzhva. They are convinced that the dismissal is unwarranted with no justification having been provided, and the dismissal not having been agreed with the trade union.
They consider his dismissal to be an “act of reprisal against the Chief Editor of the newspaper because of his principled stand upholding the interests of the team and over fighting corruption and censorship in the newspaper.”
They ask Renat Akhmetov to take regulation of the situation under his personal control and hope that Ihor Huzhva will return to his position.
Ihor Huzhva has told Ukrainska Pravda that he was dismissed for revealing the censorship structure. He says that they presumably managed to convince Akhmetov that he was a dangerous rebel although in fact, he asserts, he tried to uphold the principles which SKM [the media holding) officially declares in respect of the newspaper.
“For example, next week our joint project with New York Times is coming out: “Ukraine and the World: 2012 Global Agenda”. Representatives of New York Times will be coming. It’s not clear how they will explain to them what’s going on in the newspaper.
Ihor Huzhva says that the problems began in April after publication about a flight over Mezhyhirya [the reportedly sumptuous mansion resided in by President Yanukovych which, despite promises, he has only ever shown a selected part of to a selected few journalists – translator]. “It elicited a sharp reaction from members of the supervisory council. I was asked who had commissioned me and how much they’d paid me. I demonstrated that this was not the case and that on the contrary it had been extremely high-class material”.
He says that things went quiet for a while but then in May 2011 somebody called Mikhail Batyh turned up and he began trying to make changes to editorial materials. He could, for example, order that a photo be removed, saying that Hanna Herman (Advisor to the President) had not liked it.
Mr Huzhva goes on to describe a number of other alleged cases where attempts were made to censor material.