On June 17, the Crimean Tatar TV channel ATR moved to the Ukrainian territory and resumed broadcasting from the continent. The event was preceded by months of struggling with the Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications (Roskomnadzor), journalists’ arrests and searches, dissidents’ exclusion from the peninsula and closure of numerous independent media. Current situation concerning the Crimean media and the perspectives of the Crimea’s return into the Ukrainian information space is reported in MYMEDIA’s material.
Unfreedom of speech in the Crimean way
According to the estimation of the international organization Freedom House, during the year, the Crimea has become one of the five regions with the lowest level of freedom of speech in the world.
“First, all the Black Sea channels were cut off; next, all the Ukrainian channels were cut off. The journalists are oppressed by the Crimean self-defence and Federal Security Service; they are searched, called to law-enforcement agencies; the periodicals are being closed; no licenses are issued,” this is how the situation was explained by Alim Aliyev, the coordinator of the volunteer movement “Crimea SOS,” during the discussion “Unfreedom of speech in the Crimean way” organized by MYMEDIA.
The journalists are bullied. “We asked the Crimean journalists to speak on the International Virtual Press Club, to tell the foreign colleagues how it actually feels to work in the Crimea. The only journalist to agree was the representative of Majlis,” Sevgil Musayeva, the chief editor of the “Ukrayinska Pravda,” informs.
Valentina Samar, the chief editor of the Centre for Investigative Journalism, is not surprised at all.
Most of the pro-Ukrainian media were closed or enforced to leave the Crimea. “Many independent newspapers are now turning into self-publishing and critically reducing their circulation, as they are not capable to struggle for licenses,” Aliyev adds.
The Crimean Tatar media are persecuted by propaganda: they are publicly identified as ‘enemy’s mouthpiece’ and ‘the fifth column.’ “There are several media that used to publish their materials in the Crimean Tatar language, in Roman letters. Now they are blackmailed: to receive the license, they are to go over to Cyrillic alphabet,” Alim continues.
The resources out of favour are not simply closed; they are substituted by pro-Russian analogues. The power is now launching a TV and radio channel “Millet,” intended to become an analogue of the ATR network, which was forced out to the continent, but with a “correct” editorial policy.
Foreign media in the Crimea are critically underrepresented; the only group of foreign correspondents was stripped of accreditation. “As for human rights organizations, the only one to work, even under semi-legal conditions, is the Crimean Field Mission, but their arms are twisted as well,” Alim notes.
The situation in the Crimea is much worse than in Russia, as the advisor of the minister of information policy of Ukraine Sergey Kostinskiy resumes: “In the latter, the presence of independent media is at least imitated.”
To get to the Crimea. To hear the Crimea
“There is a wide-spread opinion that by receiving accreditation for working in the Crimea from Russia, we admit the occupation of the Crimea. We do not. The more Ukrainian journalists will work in the Crimea, the more secure their work will be there,” the presenter of the program “Hromadske. Crimea” Osman Pashayev ensures.
“At the moment, I can’t find a journalist who would write a good report on the events in the Crimea,” Sevgil Musayeva says. “Because the editorial board is not able to provide their security. On May 18, even a journalist of a Russian periodical, with a Russian passport was seized in the Crimea.”
While it is hard to get a written report, receiving a video is almost impossible as well as finding people for a live broadcast, Osman Pashayev confirms. Generally, the only people to agree to shoot at least something by telephones and tablets are advocates or Majlis members.
“For security purposes, we conceal people who are ready to cooperate with us and turn to the same person not more than one or two times,” he says.
Valentina Samar disagrees: in the Crimea, there are enough active journalists, bloggers, and common people who provide the Ukrainian media with information, sending pictures and video. “The information flow from the Crimea is rather big, but we do not use it properly,” she believes.
By Sevgil Musayeva, a cause for concern is losing the Crimeans’ trust to Ukrainian media: “Our media often show that in the Crimea, there are no products in the shops or that people are dying without water, but the Crimeans know that it is untrue. As a result, they lose trust to all the Ukrainian media.”
The editor-in-chief of “Ukrayinska Pravda” is also concerned about the fact that the Ukrainians gradually cease being interested in the Crimea: “Our traffic testifies that people have ceased to be interested in the ATO subject, while the Crimea is forgotten at all.”
The Ukrainian power tries to restore public interest in the Crimea, Sergey Kostinskiy states: “We have initiated radio programmes “Occupation” with Sergey Garmash, “Beraber” with Osman Pashayev, and “Vatan sedasi” with Aishe Akiyeva on the National Radio. “Radio Svoboda” have agreed to provide content directed at the Crimean audience once a day. It is necessary to restore the demand of the Ukrainian population for the Crimea’s return in the information space and on the whole. The journalists should help to do it.”