MYMEDIA compiled a list of key events which formed independent Ukraine media scene, changed it or became symbolic.
1991. Post-Postup newspaper publication start
Lviv journalist Oleksandr Kryvenko starts publishing one of the first independent newspapers – Post-Postup. It is ironic, critical to the government and everything Soviet, so most of journalists are published under pen names. Georgiy Gongadze, Ukrayinska Pravda (UP) founder, his wife and journalist Miroslava Gongadze, UP co-founder Aliona Prytula, Istorychna Pravda editor Vakhtang Kipiani, and writer Yurii Andrukhovych embarked upon their careers there.
1992. Commercial tv channels appearance
First private TV channel – ICTV – started its broadcasting. Then in 1993 Ukraine TV channel appeared in Donetsk, in 1995 – 1+1, in 1996 – Inter, and in 1997 – STB. These channels are still market leaders and share it among themselves.
By 2010, the problem known as one of the main threats to independent media in Ukraine – oligarchization – became urgent. Central TV channels were bought by the businessmen with political interests and influence. Owners’ names weren’t officially disclosed for a long time, although most of them have been known due to journalistic investigations. Only in 2015 with adoption of media ownership transparency law, TV channels officially published their owners’ names.
Now the TV market is divided between Igor Kolomoiskiy and Igor Surkis (1 + 1), Dmitriy Firtash, Valeriy Khoroshkovskiy, Sergey Liovochkin (Inter), Viktor Pinchuk and Elena Pinchuk (ICTV, STB, Novyi Channel) and Rinat Akhmetov (Ukraine). Here you can see the infographic.
1992. First “ua” domain registration
Ukrainian media created their websites five years after Internet appears in the country – in 1997-98s Mirror Weekly, Day and Segodnya newspapers spot their electronic editions versions on the Internet. In the meantime first information agency provides itself with a website – Interfax-Ukraine.
At that time only 0.3% percent of the Ukrainian population, which is about 150 thousand people, were using Internet. For comparison: in 2016 already 19.6 million Ukrainians, or 44.1% of the population, are online.
1992. Western donors invest in Ukraine
Just after collapse of the USSR the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) starts its activities in Ukraine. It allocates money to market economy and society democratization development. Independent media and freedom of speech support – is one of its priorities. Only in the period from 1992 till 2011, USAID has spent $ 1.7 million on it.
Gradually other donors start their activities in Ukraine - NED, Internews, International Renaissance Foundation. The governments of Britain, Germany, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark also support independent media.
The money goes to educational programs for journalists, development of information legislation that meets democratic principles, journalistic projects and investigations support.
1996. Constitution of ukraine was adopted
The Constitution approved by the Verkhovna Rada in 1996, attached citizens and journalists’ rights to freedom of speech and thought. This meant that Ukrainian journalists, got accustomed to party ideological control and constant rights violation in the Soviet Ukraine, finally got the freedom of speech guarantees. Censorship is prohibited by Article 15 of the Constitution and laws on information, press, TV and radio companies and information agencies.
2000. Georgiy Gongadze case
The murder of Ukrayinska Pravda edition founder is one of the most high-profile criminal cases and attacks on independent journalism in Ukraine.
Georgiy criticized the authorities, investigated President Leonid Kuchma and his entourage activities for what he received periodic phone threats. On September 16, 2000 he disappeared, and six months later his headless body was found in the forest near Kiev. The investigation lasted for 13 years, and only in 2013 perpetrator of the assassination – a former senior police officer Alexei Pukach. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. Assassin's paymasters haven’t still been found. In 2015, the investigation was resumed again. The murder is connected with then-president Leonid Kuchma.
2001. Kyiv-Mohyla school of journalism opening
This educational institution has introduced a new format for journalism education in Ukraine – with an emphasis on practical training rather than theory. The students prepare real TV and radio spots themselves, write, edit and air programs under teachers’ guidance – practicing journalists and visiting professors from Western universities. Some foreign lecturers’ courses are read in English.
In 2011 there appeared a strong competitor in media education market – Ukrainian Catholic University School of Journalism in Lviv. The idea is the same - learning by doing. Already in the study period students publish their works in the best Ukrainian media, regularly undergo training abroad and in Ukraine, create their own media projects. Throughout the year they are taught master classes of the best practicing journalists, editors and media managers (including foreign), travel media schools are arranged. It became possible due to the fact that School of Journalism seriously approached the fundraising – search for additional funding from donors and sponsors. Several specially hired managers are engaged in this activity throughout the year.
Today these two universities offer the most modern journalism education in Ukraine.
2002. Kuchma “temniks” appearance
Documents proving that President Kuchma administration sent national TV channels detailed instructions concerning which political events should be covered and which – no, were published. It was about strict censorship and agenda forming by authorities.
At the dawn of Orange Revolution in 2004, seven TSN journalists reported that they resign because of impossibility to abandon temniks and censorship. Later other country’s leading TV channels journalists joined them, even the ones of First National channel owned by state at that time. Temniks disappeared in 2004 after Kuchma departure and Viktor Yushchenko coming to power.
2004. Plugola appearance
Temniks were replaced by plugola and self-censorship generating it. Daniel Bruce, the editor of the European office of the Internews media organization, dates plugola appearance to 2004. Just then the media started to offer paid service to political parties and business: materials that looked like editorial, but in reality were advertising, promoting customer’s interests and violating journalism standards.
Media critic Otar Dovzhenko recalls that serious talks about plugola in Ukrainian media space started since 2005. In the meantime public organizations began fighting with it: Media Detector, Institute of Mass Information, Academy of Ukrainian Press and others regularly conducted media monitoring, point the most plugolous media and those who do often orders.
2005. Position growing in the freedom of speech ranking
During Viktor Yushchenkogoverning, Ukraine in Reporters Without Borders freedom of speech ranking occupied the highest positions for independent Ukraine history. And at that they were steadily growing – from 138 in 2004 to 87 position in 2008.
OSCE also didn’t have lots of complaints to freedom of speech in times of Yushchenko governing. Instead, Ukrainian journalists had them. They were discontented with the Commission on morality questions creation. Its purpose was to protect youth from bad influences in information space, but morality questions subjectivity left too wide field for maneuver. For example, at that time sale of famous Ukrainian writers Oles Ulyanenko and Yuriy Vynnychuk books was banned for pornography. They managed to liquidate this commission only in 2015 under President Poroshenko.
After Viktor Yanukovich coming to power in 2010, freedom of speech rating has sharply deteriorated – Ukraine found itself on the 131 position out of 173.
2005. Political talk-shows era start
In September 2005, Savik Shuster, who previously worked at Russian NTV channel, starts Freedom of Speech political talk-show on ICTV in new format for Ukrainian TV. One year later, it was awarded Teletriumph prize as best talk-show, then pick up five similar awards, is consistently high in the ratings and encourages other TV channels to start their own political talk-shows. Soon Freedom of Speech with Andrey Kulikov and Big-Time Politics with Yevgeniy Kiseliov start. Talk-show entertains country with protracted political serials, reflecting Ukrainian political life chaos – the Verkhovna Rada fights periodically move to the studio from one host to another.
2013. Opposition TVi channel illegal takeover
TVi channel, which appeared in 2008, was considered the only independent opposition TV channel before illegal takeover in 2013. Best-known opposition journalists Mustafa Nayem, Roman Skrypin, Yevgeniy Kiseliov, Kirill Lukerenko, Denis Bigus, Pavel Sheremet, Anastasia Stanko, Andrey Saichuk, Saken Aymurzaev and others worked there.
In April 2013, journalists suddenly were introduced a new owner, the old one was declared non-existent. The next day Pavel Sheremet, Proty nochi program host, was fired. Most journalists called a strike and refused to be on air. It lasted for more than a week, and then the management gave an ultimatum to Mustafa Nayem, who was TVi trade union chairman at that time: either he goes on air, or he will be fired. Nayem himself, and after him another 30 TV channel employees quit as well. After a few months, those journalists became the basis of Hromadske.TV project.
2013. Sergey Kurchenko’s UMH group emption
Young millionaire Sergey Kurchenko got on US sanctions list and fled to Russia after Maidan, the year before he bought one of the largest Ukrainian media holdings – UMH Group. Leading Ukrainian magazines Korrespondent, Forbes, KP and Argumenty i Facty newspapers were part of it.
Then Vladimir Fedorin, Forbes editor in chief, explained Kurchenko’s decision (Kurchenko was one of Viktor Yanukovich’s inner circle) as desire to shut journalists’ mouths before the presidential elections, to whitewash his reputation and use the edition to deal with issues which have nothing common with the media business. Up till the end of 2013, editors in chief and many journalists of these editions have been leaving at their own will, claiming censorship cases.
Simultaneously 14 Forbes Ukraine journalists quit, among whom – Sevgil Musaieva-Borovik, current Ukrayinska Pravda editor-in-chief, and Aleksandr Akimenko – Platfor.ma online magazine founder. Korrespondent magazine editor-in-chief Vitaliy Sych also quit. Soon he created his own edition Novoye Vremya to which a lot of his colleagues from Korrespondent have moved.
2013. Hromadske.ua phenomenon
Initially, not many believed in the idea of creating a successful public television without owner, appearing only on the Internet, existing for grant funding and concerned viewers’ support. This idea belongs to journalist Roman Skrypin, TVi group and other major Ukrainian media journalists, who have just quit, but readily supported it. Euromaidan Revolution of 2013-2014 promoted the project. Its active coverage made this project hardly the most popular Ukrainian mass media of that time.
Despite cheap studio and streams from the tablets, more than 100 thousand people watched online broadcast on peak days, and views number per day sometimes exceeded a million. Crowd funding campaign success was also unique – the team was able to gather more than a million hryvnia on Spіlnokosht web platform. Soon Hromadske.UA local initiatives network began to appear all over Ukraine. Now they have their offices in almost all major cities.
Unified web platform and finances management proved to be a difficult task, the team managed to make a lot of quarrels and reformatted itself, since then Hromadske.TV became a significant phenomenon of Ukrainian media space.
2014. Revolution of dignity: conflict journalism appearance
The conflict journalism for Ukrainian media professionals existed only in the textbooks until Maidan took place. Our journalists faced massive people beatings, arrests, barricades, administrative buildings seizure, crackdown on demonstrators, gunfights, water cannons, burning tires, wounded and dead people for the first time in 2013-14. All of it required new skills: 24 hours news, facts check in extreme conditions and at a rapid pace, mastering the basics of safety and first medical aids directly in front of bullets and on the burning barricades.
The following ethical issue became a challenge – the choice journalist vs. observer and citizen vs. protests participant. Throwing stones or holding the camera? Singing a hymn or shooting? And how one can write impartially about it? Journalists try to find answers for the latter questions till now.
2014. Annexation of crimea: journalism without rules
Crimean events taught journalists to trust their intuition on security issues – in the Crimea for the first time they've happened to be hostages, were subjected to searches, death threats and illegal non-admission to the territory that is still Ukrainian. Those Ukrainian journalists who remain in the occupied Crimea still have to get used to the new reality and heavy censorship: according to Russian legislation applicable in the territory of the peninsula, you can get arrested for calling to return Crimea to Ukraine (a call for separatism), or authorities criticism (extremist activity or slander).
2014. Ukrainian military journalism
Military journalism appeared in Ukraine with so-called people's republics self-proclamation in Donetsk and Lugansk regions. There journalists got strong work experience under fire, living together with the soldiers and volunteers, learned not to reveal military positions in their publications, to get out of captivity and recover from the post-war syndrome.
The Crimean scenario is repeated: first Vladimir Putin claims that locals are at war, and there are no Russian troops in Ukraine. Although evidence of the Russian troops presence in Donbas and repeated Ukrainian territory firing from the Russian Federation side were repeatedly published. And only in 2015 he finally admits that they are present, but these troops are not active forces, but simply people who are engaged in solving certain issues in the military sphere there.
Russia's denial of its presence and imposition of version about civil war is confusing terms and brings discussion at the international level. Who is fighting in the eastern Ukraine: the terrorists, separatists or Russian troops? What is happening: the Ukrainian crisis, ATO, armed conflict, war with Russia or civil war? LPR and DPR in quotation marks or not? What kind of formations are they: unrecognized states, self-proclaimed republics or temporarily occupied territories? All these terms are simultaneously found in the media and are conflict perception markers.
2014. Start of disinformation war
In the same 2014 it has been realized that war being waged in the information field against Ukraine, is not information war but rather a disinformation one. It is based not only on the one-sided events coverage in the Russian media, but also on obvious myths, distortion of facts, outright lies and staged items.
Drugs on the Maidan, bloody junta, burned alive Berkut, crucified boys, cut birches, Black Sea dug by ukry, fake photos as evidence, actresses playing different roles in the anti-Ukrainian news items.
This gave impetus to resistance development from the Ukrainian side – projects such as Stop Fake, disclosing Russian media fake information stories, appeared. Russian propaganda weekly monitoring, studying changes in the rhetoric and messages, appeared. They also found a very controversial Ministry of Information in Ukraine, and such scandalously known volunteer organizations as Peacemaker have appeared. The latter published a database of journalists, including ones working in the leading international editions, who obtained accreditation in the DPR, thereby violating the law on personal data.
2014. Public broadcasting creation
They began talking on the need to create public broadcasting, i.e. to start non-profit television and radio, which will be independent from government and business yet in the middle 90s. In 1997, the law on public broadcasting appeared, but it never came into force. Then there were new laws and a number of attempts to pass them. In April 2014, under EU pressure, it finally happened. It took 17 years. At that time, among the European countries, public broadcasting was absent only in Ukraine and Belarus.
Just after that the process of First National channel and all of its regional editions transformation into the public broadcaster started (and it’s not completed yet). Channel name was changed to UA: Pershyi, new programs were created. In spite of this, the channel rating is less than 1% of the audience and historically low in its entire history.
2016. State media liquidation
In the beginning of this year, a law which obliges the authorities to withdraw from media co-founders came into force. The reorganization should take three years. During this time the editions have to adapt to the new realities and find sources of funding which will replace subsidies from the budget.
This step was necessary to get rid of authorities’ influence on the media. Ukraine became one of the last post-Soviet countries, except for Russia and Belarus, which carried out this reform.