The regional press appeals to shout from the housetops

High-flown statements about unclouded future of home mass media during and after the orange revolution made journalists feel if not confidence, then rather strong hope for quick changes in their professional life. Do these expectations come true today?

Not censorship, however…

To be honest, it is much more pleasant to watch news of central TV-channels now than before the revolution. Reporters don’t need to be embarrassed of obvious lie, journalists don’t hide behind anonymous censored event reviews, and the current opposition quite often is shown in news and has enough speeches without abridgments and cutting. And even the chief oppositionist Viktor Yanukovych at a recent TV-show recognized that the possibility for opponents to the new government to freely express views is an achievement of this government.  

Probably, that’s exactly what the President Viktor Yushchenko meant when after his first hundred days at power he unambiguously stated that in Ukraine existed the freedom of speech. We congratulate our colleagues from the capital who work in private mass media on this fact. 

And what about province, where anyway the main players on media-market are state and municipal mass media? Actually, nothing has changed. There is no censorship, but “governing and directing” officials’ power is constantly felt. For example, editorials receive the so-called “orientations” regularly and almost every day. These documents oblige journalists to “widely elucidate” the activity of the executive government bodies. There are all kinds of topics! From the government’s intentions to reconstruct old buildings to… improvement of legal conditions of ethnic Ukrainians in Prydnistrivya.

Once according to such “orientations” the activity of the abovementioned V. Yanukovych’s government was also elucidated, and as a result all state and municipal mass media were supposed to be misinforming.

Top-managers left their jobs

Long before the presidential election informed people shared with heads of municipal mass media the information that in case of Viktor Yushchenko’s victory no one of them would preserve their job. At present already four editorial boards of district newspapers of the region changed management. Someone was “softly” offered to go for deserved rest, someone got a proposal impossible to resist – to write a resignation at one’s own wish, many are constantly hinted at the end of journalistic career.   

And the most resonance conflict happened in Bobrovytsia. There new functionaries decided to change an editor by all means. All possible and impossible methods are being used. Particularly, examination of financial-economic activity of the editors – quite in the form of the old “criminal government”. After a few gatherings of the labor collective that didn’t want to agree with the change of their editor, the case was logically finished after all: the collective voted for the new editor, and the old one was dismissed for… truancy. While Halyna Pliushch, the editor of the “Our Life” newspaper, at that time had vacation and was on sick leave. 

The Kyiv Independent media association already got the hang of the conflict. Halyna Pliushch is going to bring an action to court not only to regain the job, but to compensate moral and material damage.  

Meanwhile many representatives of the local new government seriously believe that municipal mass media must be fully subordinated to them and elucidate only what they are allowed to. And no one word more. The deputy chief of a district state administration in one rather progressive district directly states with honesty: “This is my newspaper!” And as a result our association receives from districts the following letters: “Extreme pressure. Let’s shout from the housetops. Let’s write letters to the President, Prime minister or someone else. Let’s send some statements to informational agencies. Something has to be done. We are already told on what page and what to write and how…”

What’s next?

Today it is absolutely obvious that no changes happened on the level of official’s conscience and will not happen. They cannot. They can’t and don’t want to work differently with the press. It is not in their genotype. The motto “It’s my newspaper” passed through the communistic times, a bit dimmed at the first years of the independence, and again shone at Leonid Kuchma, and continues to exist and win now.  

And as long as in our country municipal and state mass media exist, they will obey officials’ orders. With the policy of threats and bribery. From elections till elections. As long they will play one of key roles in the infamous administrative resource. New elections are not far off. Let’s stand firm, colleagues!   

Oleksandr Nazarenko,

editor of the Men district newspaper “Our Word”,

the head of the regional mass media association



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