UNIAN sacrificed to protect other business interests?


While journalists at the UNIAN information agency stand firm in their protest over faked anti-opposition comments posted a week ago, media analysts fear that the agency’s owner Ihor Kolomoiski may have decided to sacrifice the agency in order to keep his other business interests in Ukraine intact.  The head of the Kyiv branch of the Independent Media Union of Ukraine, Andriy Yanitsky told Deutsche Welle that the silence from the UNIAN top management and major shareholder suggests that the fake material did not come from individual heads of departments. He believes that millionaire Kolomoisky is effectively sacrificing his agency so as to save his other business interests now that he doesn’t have his own people in parliament.  Oksana Romanyuk from Reporters without Borders notes that situations where media owners see their media as “safety cushions” for their business interests are fairly standard for Ukraine. The narrowing of permitted topics in the media, muffling of information etc, are all decided at the level of the owners, she adds.

Meanwhile the Independent Media Union of Ukraine is calling on the Ukrainian media to refrain from boycotting the information agency UNIAN following the scandal over anti-opposition false information and accusations of censorship.  The Union stresses that there are highly-professional journalists at UNIAN who are steadfastly opposing censorship and distortions in the news. 

It points out that the UNIAN journalists’ union is trying to prevent further undermining of the agency’s reputation and a boycott will render their efforts useless.

“From when the false reports were published on 11 February, the agency’s management has, the UNIAN journalists say, effectively withdrawn from running the agency, and the public appeal from the journalists to the owners and managers from 13 February have not received a response.

Under these conditions the local branch of the Independent Media Union within UNIAN has decided to call a general meeting in order to consider creating a temporary editorial council in order to re-establish the agency’s reputation, pass decisions on introducing authorization of information and also to consider a possible strike.

The Independent Media Union expresses its total support for the local branch and for the UNIAN team which is continuing its battle, despite the lack of response from the owner.

As reported, last Tuesday six editors from the UNIAN website issued a statement following faked commentary from opposition MPs Serhiy Vlasenko and Oleksandra Kuzhel was posted on their site.

They said that they are convinced that the UNIAN management is concealing something, and while they don’t know who commissioned the material, they can make guesses.

They referred to the conflict in 2012 within UNIAN over censorship and are convinced that the General Director of the UNIAN agency and the Chief Editor bear responsibility. They say that all efforts to reach understanding with the management for the sake of the agency’s efficient work have been futile.

Earlier the opposition Batkivshchyna Party stated that the UNIAN site had on 11 February posted faked statements from the MPs Oleksandra Kuzhel and Serhiy Vlasenko. The reports were at first removed from the UNIAN site and then reinstated. Osadchy is refusing to comment on this as well. 

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