AMBASSADOR'S BLOG - FREEDOM OF THE MEDIA IN UKRAINE

Kyiv
26.01.12




 

This post is also available in: Ukrainian

Back in July 2010 I wrote a blog called How to stop censorship in Ukraine.  Based on a discussion with journalists, I noted both areas for concern and some areas for optimism; and observed that freedom of the media would be critical for Ukraine’s relationship with the EU because the Copenhagen criteria, which set out the conditions for would-be EU member states, included “stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities”.

I thought of that discussion when international media watchdog Reporters Without Borders this week released their press freedom index for 2011.  In the index, Ukraine improves its position from 131st place in 2010  to 116th place in 2011, out of 179 countries.  This put Ukraine ahead of Tajikistan (place 122), Russia (142), Kazakhstan (154), Uzbekistan (157), Azerbaijan (162), Belarus (168) and Turkmenistan (177).  But the index expressed concern about negative tendencies in Ukraine, including physical attacks against journalists going unpunished, and pointed out that Ukraine  was not doing as well as Kyrgyzstan (place 108), Georgia (104), Armenia (77) and Moldova (53).  Moldova’s star rating, incidentally, ties in with its recent success in overtaking Ukraine as the “most free” country amongst those listed here according to the annual rankings by the US-based NGO Freedom House.

One special problem of Ukraine is the  phenomenon of so called “jinsa”, whereby political parties and others surreptitiously pay for media coverage.  In my piece “Ukraine: Freedoms under threat?” for Investgazeta of 14 December 2010 I suggested that media magnates who ran TV channels or newspapers without “jinsa” should display a “Jinsa No Thanks” logo.  Unfortunately, this recent piece in the Kyiv Post  suggests there is little sign of progress.

It’s good to see Ukraine rising up an international ranking.  But the Reporters Without Borders assessment, and the problem of “jinsa”, show that Ukraine could still substantially improve its position.  My impression from talking to journalists in Kyiv and in the regions is that many in the media, particularly outside Kyiv, still feel they run a risk of actual physical danger if they investigate official corruption, for example, too vigorously.  There is also a good argument that, for a country aspiring to EU membership, place 116 on an index of 179 countries worldwide is not good enough.  I would welcome any comments, particularly from actual journalists, about how they rate media freedoms in Ukraine.

 

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Leigh Turner



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