Stop Censorship condemns censorship at Forbes Ukraine


  Serhiy Kurchenko

The civic movement Stop Censorship has condemned the “shameful situation with interference in the editorial policy and effective censorship in Forbes Ukraine which led to the resignation of our colleagues, journalists from the publication”.

They call on the owners of Forbes Media LLC to intervene and ensure that the editorial policy of the journal and site continues to comply with the licensing agreement and general principles of freedom of speech.

As reported, 14 Forbes Ukraine website and journal employees handed in their resignation on Nov. 13 over interference in the publication’s editorial policy.  This was just a week after the announcement that Serhiy Kurchenko had completed his buyout of the Ukrainian Media Holding which owns ahead of schedule.  This removed any restrictions on changing the board of the UMH group and placed management of UMH in the hands of Kurchenko’s VETEK media company.

Stop Censorship writes that after this, the new management immediately changed editorial policy.

“Journalists were prohibited from writing on topics linked with the party in power and high-ranking officials. They were, for example, not allowed to prepare and publish material comparing current and previous rhetoric from the Party of the Regions regarding European integration or on Deputy Prime Minister Arbuzov’s advisers, and the number of political items on the site was significantly cut (from two a day to two a week).

In addition, journalists have been threatened with defamation suits over articles published earlier and sanctions if they publically criticize the management of the journal or the holding’s owners. The site journalists were also asked to resign “by mutual agreement” simply because supposedly “we won’t in any case be able to work together”.

This situation demonstrates that the main purpose for buying the media holding was to establish strict control over the editorial policy of a journal which had previously written critical material about the new owners, including a journalist investigation last year on Serhiy Kurchenko.  The list of “prohibited topics” provided by the former Forbes Ukraine journalists shows that the Ukrainian authorities are frightened of criticism and that the new management of the media holding UMH will make all efforts to remove such criticism from the media under its control.”

Stop Censorship calls on the Forbes Media management to react immediately to the censorship and resignation of journalists. This, they say, has caused enormous damage to the reputation of Ukrainian Forbes and could harm its international reputation. They ask Forbes Media to take serious measures to remind the Ukrainian publisher of the need for editorial independence, of their commitments under the licensing agreement and the need to respect freedom of speech.

They also call on the new owner of UMH, Serhiy Kurchenko to state his position on the situation and note that on Nov. 18 there were also dismissals / resignations of journalists from the Korrespondent journal and website which are also owned by UMH.

They call on representatives of international organizations and embassies to pay close attention to the mass resignations / removals of journalists over imposition of censorship.  As of Nov. 17, this includes: 31 journalists from the TV channel TVi; 6 site editors and the Brussels correspondent of UNIAN; three journalists from Obkom; and 14 journalists from Forbes Ukraine.  They mention also the news on Monday, Nov. 18, that Vitaly Sych is no longer Chief Editor of Korrespondent and that a number of other journalists from that publication have resigned.

All of this, they say, indicates that the situation with freedom of speech is deteriorating despite the public declarations from Ukraine’s leaders about commitment to European values, including freedom of speech. 

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