Demonstrations were held in several cities across Ukraine today, including Kyiv and Kharkiv in support of the TV station, TVi. Harassment of TVi began several months ago when a case for tax evasion was brought against it. The case was dropped for lack of evidence, but in the meantime, several cable TV providers that carried TVi broadcasts 'accidentally' switched the channel off and said that it could not be reinstated. Several other providers have put TVi broadcasts into more expensive cable packages which has significantly reduced TVi's viewer base.

The channel has a reputation for independent and forthright investigative journalism and its journalists are convinced that the harassment they are experiencing is as a direct result of government influence on cable providers, as part of a move to prevent critical reporting of the government ahead of the October elections.

At the rally in Kyiv, TVi editor-in-chief Vitaly Portnikov said, "The goal of all honest journalists is to criticise the authorities. Only a journalist who tells you about the authorities' mistakes, their crimes, their wrong-doings - only this person can call himself an honest journalist... when you destroy independent media you are punishing not just the opposition but civil society."

On Monday, at the opening of the World Newspaper Congress in Kyiv, President Yanukovych said that perceptions that the media in Ukraine was not free were down to ignorance about Ukraine's affairs. He studiously ignored a group of journalists who were holding anti-censorship and pro-TVi placards.

For a BBC Ukrainian video report of the day's events (in Ukrainian) click here. For further details in English, click here.

Ukrayinska Dumka


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