The European centre for press and media freedom (ECPMF) has published an open letter to Petro Poroshenko, calling to react to violance towards the journalists in Ukraine. Western media compare the new wave of violence and absence of government response with the times of Kuchma. Ukrainian media experts strongly disagree with such assessments.
West dissatisfied with Poroshenko, Poroshenko dissatisfied with media
The ECPMF letter covers arson of the TV channel "Inter", resignation of the former Deputy Minister of Information Policy Tatiana Popova as a mark of protest against the failure to respond to attacks on journalists, the murder of Pavel Sheremet and poor progress in the investigation of the attack on the chief editor of the "Forbes Woman" Mary Rydvan in the park, disclosure of personal data of more than 5 thousand journalists by the website "Mirotvorets".
"Violence against the journalists is not a new phenomenon in your country, Mr. President," - writesHenrik Kaufholz, theChairman of the ECPMF Executive Board.
Kaufholzmentions the material of the Kyiv Post, which includes a list of 50 journalists murdered or perished in suspicious circumstances since declaring independenceof Ukraine.
September 16, during the annual meeting of the European Strategyin Yalta, President Petro Poroshenko statedhe was unhappy with the press situation in the country, and that the investigation into the murder of Pavel Sheremet was an important test for the law enforcement.
"Of course, it is a problem when the journalist’scar explodes in the street in the center of Kiev. This is a terrorist act and it could happen in any country. But the Ukrainian president, the Ukrainian government and Ukrainian law enforcement authorities must show the effectiveness and transparency of the investigation", - he noted.
"What I can do – it is to call the American partners and to invite the FBI agents in an hour or two after it happened, so that they could help with the investigation, and to provide with the experts who could conductthe searchand add transparency to this investigation."
Nevertheless, Poroshenko said that he was not going to intervene into the situation with the TV channel"Inter".
"Am I happy with the situation of the press? No! But it cannot be that the president intervenes into the situation with the attack on the channel "Inter" – thisis unacceptable, "- stated Poroshenko.
Media experts disagree
The Western media have long written about the safety of journalists in Ukraine being close to its level at the Kuchma times. However, the Ukrainian media experts strongly disagree with this assessment and do not see any reasons for such.
"We havediscussed this matter with the Western media numerous times," - says Oksana Romaniuk, Director of Institute of Mass Information and representative of the international organization "Reporters without Borders"in Ukraine. She believes that such impression of theWestern experts has been composed with "huge cases" of recent months – Sheremet’s murder and arson of "Inter."
"The Western media are not familiar with the monitoring results, they do not compare the situation with last year. They have notbeen following the freedom of speech in Ukraine and have no idea what it was in the days of Kuchma. They have the impression that something terrible is happening here. But as media experts, we see that nothing has changed much. Notendencytowards increaseofattacks,"- saidRomaniuk.
She notes that there can be no such a thing as ‘Kuchma’ censorship, as it was replaced with the pressure of oligarchs and self-censorship of the journalists. It should not question the safety of journalists, according to Romaniuk, as well: "The number of attacks has decreased by around 10-15 percent from last year, and information access has even improved."
"Freedom of speech remains at about the same level as in 2015. Then, two journalists were killed – SergeiNikolaev in Pisky during the fighting in the ATO, and Oles Buzina. But the second one was not a journalist, but rather a political expert."
Similar point of view is shared by Natalia Ligacheva, founder of the media organization and the Internet publication "Media Detector."
"In the Western media a number of articles is written bycompletelyunprofessional people. Moreover, they twist the facts, give incorrect quotations, pulled out of context. This raises many questions,"- insists Natalia Ligacheva.
Speaking about the murder of Pavel Sheremet, the Ukrainian media experts do not believe that it reflects the trend in the freedom of speech. "We still do not know the reason of this murder. We do not exclude that it may be pressure on Alyona Pritula, but then again, the "Ukrayinska Pravda" continues to release news, and it neitherconduced intimidation,nor affectedself-censorship of the publication", - says Romaniuk.
Natalia Ligacheva admits involvement in the murder of Sheremet as of radical elements, as well as of the "Russian trace".
And not everything is clear with the situation of the TV channel "Inter".
"Protest wasimplementedby the explicitlyradicalstructures. Someone set "Inter"to fire, we do not know who until now. We may have questions on how the investigation is conducted, but it is impossible now to blame Avakov, as "Inter"does it. Tribunal and thorough investigation are to be held,"- said Ligacheva.
Also, the Ukrainian media experts allocate new phenomena in 2016: the Internet trolls and bots attacking journalists, activists and public figures.
"It is impossible to fight with it, the Internet is developing this way, and these bot-farms exist around the world, even in America a journalist was attacked who criticized Trump" - says Romaniuk.
"Many colleagues are starting to say that all this is organized by Poroshenko and people close to him. Where is the evidence? "- questions Ligacheva, adding that she is also often accused of being "Poroshenko’s ally".
What to do
In addition, we need to improve the legislative framework.
"Obviouslyseveral media are funded not transparently, and it is not only "Inter". There is radioholding "Vesti" – notclear at all who the owner is. We know that the owner is[Donetskoligarch and statesman Alexander] Klimenko, but it is not officially declared, and theholding is funded alsonot transparently. Within two years the authorities could have solved this problem already."
In addition, according to Ligacheva, National Rada must use all available means to prevent hidden advertising, including of the certain political forces. Ligacheva advised "Inter" to review the editorial policy.
The authorities should ensure legislative solution to the problem with the broadcasting of materials with obvious signs of hidden advertising, and solve the problem with the lack of transparency of the media financing.