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28.05.2012

Chief Editor in UNIAN dispute leaves

   

The website OBKOM has reported that the Chief Editor of the UNIAN news agency, Oleksandr Kharchenko, whose transfer led to protest from colleagues, accusations of censorship and an apparent compromise from the management is still leaving UNIAN.  He says that he is leaving by mutual agreement, but does not go into any details, saying only that after many years in UNIAN, 13 as Chief Editor, he is hoping to move into one of the projects injecting fresh ideas and impetus in the Ukrainian media world.

As reported, it was learned on 15 May that Oleksandr Kharchenko was being replaced by Mykola Hannytsky and moved to the post of Main Editor of the agency site 

The UNIAN staff objected, and said that they viewed the changes as an assault on freedom of speech. 

They stated that at a planning meeting on 27 April the site had come under criticism from the UNIAN General Director  for supposedly having too much about Yulia Tymoshenko’s alleged beating.  They also complained that the new Chief Editor  had banned them from giving the other side to the conflict on 17 May.

“Kharchenko was the only one who could stand up to the new management in their attempts to make the UNIAN site less hard-hitting, more loyal to those in power. We consider that this is the reason he’s been “removed””

They called on the National Union of Journalists, the Independent Media Trade Union and other structures defending freedom of speech to help in revolving this conflict.

On 23 May Reporters without Borders sent an open letter to the head of the media holding Igor Kolomoyskyi about UNIAN.

“We hail the efforts that have been made to reach a negotiated solution and Kharchenko’s reinstatement in a non-subordinate position is a positive development. But long-term structural solutions are needed to recover the trust of both the editorial staff and the public. Editorial independence can never be taken for granted, even within the most distinguished media and whatever the intentions of their owners.

We therefore support the talks that are under way with a view to creating an editorial board within UNIAN, one that will define its editorial policies in a concrete and transparent manner, with the aim of protecting it from any external political or commercial influence. We very much hope that these talks reach a successful conclusion.”

Despite reports to the contrary even before the RWB letter, it would appear that any negotiated solution only involved severance of contract, and are unlikely to allay the concerns of the UNIAN team. 

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