It once again depends on us
Venal journalists making television stories to order sully us all no less than censorship three years ago. Like then, it is in our hands. Presenters can refuse to read a story, editors – to prepare it for air, journalists – to film footage or prepare commentaries, where they know that they will be used for paid stories.
At present, as for so long then, it is only the isolated few who take this stand. And even then not all the time. And the infection is spreading just like in 2002. As if 2004 never happened.
Straight after that time it felt as though journalism to order was a relic of a dark age. When we were planning “Its better not to lie”* in 2005, it was aimed exclusively at future journalists so that they didnt repeat our mistakes. We ourselves were convinced that our generation would no longer take part in that. We will be carrying on our courses on fighting pressure for students of journalists for another two years. Yet maybe its time to think about learning ourselves?
People I know in various faction headquarters say that almost everybody is selling their services. They say even “Chas” [“Time”] on my Channel 5. I would be prepared to stake my flat to prove that thats a lie since I personally plan the topics, features and guests, together with Katya Lebedeva (just as Sviat Tseholko during his week). But Im not saying this to stress whos untainted and whos not, but so that we understand that writing television features to order sullies all of us, no less than censorship three years ago.
Probably even more. The instructions given by Viktor Medvedchuks team [the Presidents Administration] were overtly black and white, like all absolute propaganda. Those who are now commissioning features about their party congresses or invitations for their party leaders to have studio interviews are more subtle. They are aimed not so much at concealing the truth, or open defamation, but at highlighting this or that detail.
And they dirty us all. When a politician hears a hard-hitting question, he is convinced that his competitors paid for it. I understand why he thinks that way when people tell me what money the various faction headquarters are now spending on media “services”. Its not what politicians think that is important, but the fact that journalism to order, like censorship, is the enemy of every journalist, even if he or she works honestly. It undermines faith in the media as a whole and in each individual media employee. On Monday, I couldnt stand it any longer and began explaining to Oleksandr Moroz [leader of the Socialist Party, Speaker of Parliament for the coalition] that Petro Poroshenko [owner of the channel and a member of the Nasha Ukraina Bloc] does not write the questions I ask and doesnt determine who I ask them to. Moroz didnt argue but it was obvious that he didnt believe me. Even worse is that on Tuesday I had to explain that my programme was not “for sale” to Natalya Ligachova [Chief Editor of Telekritika”] – a partner in the struggle from 2004!
Our lack of trust in one another is not the biggest problem. The biggest is obvious, but we are again not paying attention to it. Half of the truth is the same as a lie! Ukrainians now (thank God) are living in conditions where they have a choice in all parts of their life and dishonest adjustments of focus distort this choice. As they did before.
Of course its possible to react like then. To express disgruntlement behind the scenes, to comfort yourself with the thought that others sell their services more, or to say “But what can I do?”/ However 2004 clearly showed what presenters, editors and journalists really can do.
* More information about this excellent initiative can be found at: http://khpg.org.ua/en/index.php?id=1161811604 and at the links on that page