Apparent UNIAN response to censorship allegations

UNIAN says that it has made a number of staff changes following conflict over allegations of censorship. In fact the only change mentioned is that the Chief Editor is being moved elsewhere for the period of an internal investigation

An UNIAN statement says that it will be carrying out an internal investigation into alleged exceeding of official powers by Mykola Kondratenko, Chief Editor of the UNIAN website in threats of penalties not envisaged by labour legislation.

Mykhailo Hannytsky, Editor in Chief of UNIAN has been instructed to find another post for Kondratenko during the inquiry. The Acting Chief Editor will be Mariana Oliynyk who would seem to have been brought in from outside.

As reported, five UNIAN editors initially spoke out publicly on 25 October accusing General Director Vadim Osadchy of censorship. They stated that Osadchy had told two editors – Lyubov Zhalovaha and Valentina Romanenko – that on the basis of an official note from the head of the UNIAN Internet project Mykola Kondratenko each was to be fined 200 UAH (roughly 20 EUR) for posting a news story. This was preceded by an order to remove the news item about a picket outside the President’s Administration in defence of the Bilichansk Forest. They assert that the conversation with Kondratenko and Osadchy boiled down to the question: “Why are you getting at Yanukovych?”

“We were aware that with the change of management the rules of play would also change, however tried as much as we could to maintain the face of the site in the hope that the situation was temporary and of better times. We hope that with this statement we are doing precisely that – bringing better times closer”.

A little later they addressed an open letter to the UNIAN General Director in which they gave examples of censorship by management.

This states that management has banned negative coverage of President Yanukovych’s activities. It also forced them during the election period to give coverage to the leader of the Communist Party Petro Symonenko and to one of the candidates in single-mandate electoral district No. 218.

The editors assert that they have received letters from Mykola Kondratenko, head of the Internet projects department where he gives direct instructions to “follow the activities of the Communist Party and the leader of the proletariat, and pay close attention to their news.” The coverage referred to is of Symonenko’s trips around the regions during the election period.

With respect to the candidate from electoral district No. 218, they say that in October alone they posted 37 of his commentaries.

They also allege that the names of three opposition single-mandate electoral district candidates (Doniy; Aryev and Bryhynets) were taboo on the website.

Several examples are provided of news items removed on the instruction of Kondratenko who, the authors say, agreed this with Osadchy: “The opposition reports the appearance of a fake interview with Turchynov”; “The Party of the Regions’ interests in district electoral commissions will be represented by 13 out of the 18 members”, and others.

The editors say that they were stopped from covering the events at the World Newspaper Congress (held in Kyiv) when colleagues from Ukrainska Pravda were assaulted, and assert that Osadchy himself placed a taboo on the subject of the journalist protest action (they stood up when Yanukovych began his opening address with placards about censorship in Ukraine – translator).

The open letter was signed by the Senior Site Editor Lyubov Zhalovaha and editors Oleksandr Volynsky; Valentina Romanenko; Natalia Ovdiyenko; Roman Romanyuk and Natalia Nehrei.

On 7 November the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union issued a Statement regarding Censorship at UNIAN

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