Freedom of the press in Ukraine

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2014 Press Freedom Index[1]
Ukraine moved from "noticeable problems" (89th place) in 2009 to "difficult situation" (126th place) in 2013 in the Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders.

Freedom of the press in Ukraine is considered to be among the freest of the post-Soviet states other than the Baltic states.[a 1][2][3][4][5]

Freedom House classifies the Internet in Ukraine as "free" and the press as "partly free".[6] Press freedom has significantly improved since the Orange Revolution of 2004.[5][7][8] However, in 2010 Freedom House perceived "negative trends in Ukraine".[9]

According to the US Department of State in 2009 there were no attempts by central authorities to direct media content, but there were reports of intimidation of journalists by national and local officials.[10] Media at times demonstrated a tendency toward self‑censorship on matters that the government deemed sensitive.[10][11] Stories in the electronic and printed media (veiled advertisements and positive coverage presented as news) and participation in a television talk show can be bought.[10] Media watchdog groups have express concern over the extremely high monetary damages that were demanded in court cases concerning libel.[10]

The Constitution of Ukraine and a 1991 law provide for freedom of speech.[12]

In Ukraine’s provinces numerous, anonymous attacks[8][10][11][13] and threats persisted against journalists, who investigated or exposed corruption or other government misdeeds.[14][15] The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists concluded in 2007 that these attacks, and police reluctance in some cases to pursue the perpetrators, were “helping to foster an atmosphere of impunity against independent journalists.”[16][17] Media watchdogs have stated attacks and pressure on journalists have increased since the February 2010 election of Viktor Yanukovych as President.[18]

In Ukraine many news-outlets are financed by wealthy investors and reflected the political and economic interests of their owners.[8]


Georgiy Gongadze, Ukrainian journalist, founder of a popular Internet newspaper Ukrayinska Pravda, who was kidnapped and murdered in 2000.

After the (only) term of office of the first Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk ended in 1994, the freedom of the press worsened.[19] During the presidency of Leonid Kuchma (1994–2004) several news-outlets critical to the him were forcefully closed.[20] In 1999 the Committee to Protect Journalists placed Kuchma on the list of worst enemy's of the press.[20] In that year the Ukrainian Government partially limited freedom of the press through tax inspections (Mykola Azarov, who later became Prime Minister of Ukraine, headed the tax authority during Kuchma's presidency[21][22]), libel cases, subsidization, and intimidation of journalists; this caused many journalists to practice self-censorship.[12] In 2003 and 2004 authorities interfered with the media by issuing written and oral instructions about what events to cover.[23][24] Toward the very end of the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election campaign in November 2004, many media outlets began to ignore government direction and covered events in a more objective, professional manner.[24]

Since the Orange Revolution (of 2004) Ukrainian media has become more pluralistic and independent.[5][7][8] For instance, attempts by authorities to limit freedom of the press through tax inspections have ceased.[23][24][25][26][27][28] Since then the Ukrainian press is considered to be among the freest of all post-Soviet states (only the Baltic states are considered "free").[3][4][5]

Latest developments[edit]

Journalist documenting events at the Independence square. Clashes in Ukraine, Kyiv. Events of February 18, 2014.

In December 2009 during the 2010 Ukrainian presidential election campaign incumbent Prime Minister of Ukraine and presidential candidate[29] Yulia Tymoshenko complained Ukrainian TV channels are manipulating the consciousness of citizens in favor of financial and oligarchic groups.[30]

In Spring 2010 Ukrainian journalists, the European Federation of Journalists and Reporters Without Borders all complained of censorship by President Yanukovych's administration.[31][32][33] This despite statements by Yanukovych how deeply he values press freedom and that ‘free, independent media that must ensure society’s unimpeded access to information’.[31] Anonymous journalists stated early May 2010 that they were voluntarily tailoring their coverage so as not to offend the Yanukovych administration and the Azarov Government.[34] The Azarov Government denies censoring the media,[35] so did the Presidential Administration[36] and President Yanukovych himself.[37] Presidential Administration Deputy Head Hanna Herman stated on May 13, 2010 that the opposition benefited from discussions about the freedom of the press in Ukraine and also suggested that the recent reaction of foreign journalists organizations had been provoked by the opposition.[36] On May 12, 2010, the parliamentary committee for freedom of speech and information called on the General Prosecutor's Office to immediately investigate complaints by journalists of pressure on journalists and censorship.[38]

A law on strengthening the protection of the ownership of mass media offices, publishing houses, bookshops and distributors, as well as creative unions was passed by the Ukrainian Parliament on May 20, 2010.[39]

Since the February 2010 election of Viktor Yanukovych as President Media watchdogs have stated attacks and pressure on journalists have increased.[18] The International Press Institute addressed an open letter to President Yanukovych on August 10, 2010 urging him to address what the organisation saw as a disturbing deterioration in press freedom over the previous six months in Ukraine.[40] PACE rapporteur Renate Wohlwend noticed on October 6, 2010 that "Some progress had been made in recent years but there had also been some retrograde steps".[41] In January 2011 Freedom House stated it had perceived "negative trends in Ukraine" during 2010; these included: curbs on press freedom, the intimidation of civil society, and greater government influence on the judiciary.[9]

In 2014 Ukraine blocked 14 Russian television channels from its cable networks.[42]


The report Freedom in the World (by Freedom House) rated Ukraine "partly free" since/from 1992[20] till 2003, when it was rated "not free".[43] Since 2005 it is rated "partly free" again.[2][3] According to Freedom House internet in Ukraine is "Free" and the press is "Partly Free".[6]

Ukraine's ranking in Reporters Without Borders´s Press Freedom Index has long been around the 90th spot (89 in 2009,[44] 87 in 2008[45]), while it occupied the 112th spot in 2002[46] and even the 132nd spot in 2004.[47] In 2010 it fell to the 131st place; according to Reporters Without Borders this was the result of "the slow and steady deterioration in press freedom since Viktor Yanukovych’s election as president in February".[48] In 2013 Ukraine occupied the 126th spot (dropping 10 places compared with 2012); (according to Reporters Without Borders) "the worst record for the media since the Orange Revolution in 2004".[49]

Popular opinion[edit]

During an opinion poll by Research & Branding Group in October 2009 49.2% of the respondents stated that Ukraine's level of freedom of speech was sufficient, and 19.6% said the opposite. Another 24.2% said that there was too much of freedom of speech in Ukraine. According to the data, 62% of respondents in western Ukraine considered the level of freedom of speech sufficient, and in the central and southeastern regions the figures were 44% and 47%, respectively.[50]

In a late 2010 poll also conducted by the Research & Branding Group 56% of all Ukrainians trusted the media and 38.5% didn't.[51]

Timeline of reporters killed in Ukraine[edit]

Under former President Leonid Kuchma opposition papers were closed and several journalists died in mysterious circumstances.[52]

Year Date Event
1995 April Volodymyr Ivanov of Slava Sevastopolya, in Sevastopol [53]
1996 May Ihor Hrushetsky in Cherkasy[53]
1997 13 March Petro Shevchenko, correspondent for the daily Kyivskiye Vedomosti in Luhansk, Ukraine, is found hanging in an abandoned building in Kiev. He had co-authored articles about disputes between the mayor of Luhansk and the local branch of the Ukrainian Security Services.[54]
11 August Borys Derevyanko, editor-in-chief of the Ukrainian newspaper, Verchernaya Odessa, shot twice and killed while on the way to an editorial board meeting at his office.[54]
1999 16 May Ihor Bondar director of the AMT television station, was shot and killed in the an Odessa residential neighbourhood, as he was driving in a car with Boris Vikhrov, the Odessa court's presiding judge. The magistrate was also killed in the attack. This double murder was carried out by men with Kalashnikov-style automatic weapons riding in a car.[54]
2000 16 September Georgiy Gongadze co-founded a news website, Ukrayinska Pravda, killed in the Taraschanskyi Raion (district) after being kidnapped.
2001 24 June Oleh Breus publisher of the regional weekly, XXI Vek, was shot dead by two gunmen outside his home in Luhansk. He was shot in the head and back at point blank range as he was getting out of his car. The motive for the murder remains unknown, although colleagues at XXI Vek said they had received threats in recent months. Breus himself narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in December 2000.[54]
7 July Ihor Oleksandrov, director of the private TV and radio station TOR in Sloviansk, died of injuries sustained on 3 July, when four unidentified men wielding baseball bats attacked him at his office. Local media suggested that Oleksandrov's death was linked to his investigations into corruption and organised crime.[54][55] Four former policemen were sentenced to 7-13 years imprisonment for fraud during the criminal case involving Oleksandrov in March 2012.[56]
2002 27 November Mykhailo Kolomiets, co-founder of Ukrainian News Agency found dead hanging on a tree in Belarus.[57]
2003 14 December Volodymyr Karachevtsev, 47, deputy editor-in-chief of Kuryer newspaper, was found dead in his home in Melitopol]. He was discovered hanging from the handle of his refrigerator. Karachevtsev was also chairman of the regional independent union of journalists and a correspondent for the online publication, Police did not rule out the possibility of murder.[54]
2004 3 March Yuriy Chechyk, director of Radio Yuta in Poltava, died under suspicious circumstances in a car crash. He was on the way to meet with executives of Radio Liberty's Ukrainian Service, which is often critical of the Ukrainian government, to hold talks on rebroadcasting the station's programmes on the more accessible FM band.[54]
2010 August Vasyl Klymentyev, a Ukrainian investigative journalist, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Novy Stil based in Kharkiv. He went missing in August and is presumed dead. He had been investigating local corruption.[58]
2014 20 February Ihor Kostenko, a 22-year-old Ukrainian journalist from the newspaper Sportanalytic, also a geography student and contributor to the Ukrainian Wikipedia. He died during Euromaidan.[59]
2014 24 May Andrea Ronchelli, Italian photojournalist killed in unclear circumstances while covering the Siege of Sloviansk.[60] Ronchelli's Russian interpreter, Andrey Mironov, was also killed.[60] French photographer William Roguelon told Russian television that Ronchelli and Mironov were killed while trying to escape mortar fire, and that he himself was wounded in the incident.[60]
2014 17 June Igor Kornelyuk, Russian reporter died in hospital of wounds sustained previously from mortar fire while covering fighting between the Ukrainian Armed Forces and LPR rebels in the Luhansk Region.[61]

Anton Voloshin, sound engineer, killed in same incident. [62]

2014 29 June Anatoly Klyan, Russian cameraman for Russia's Channel One was shot in the stomach as the bus he was riding in came under fire by Ukrainian forces near the entrance to a military base in Donetsk. Klyan was in a bus with mothers of soldiers who reportedly wanted to negotiate with the Ukrainian troops. Klyan died shortly afterwards.[63]
2014 July Sergei Dolgov, editor of the Hochu v SSSR ("I want to be in the USSR") and Vestnik Priazovya ("The Azov Region Courier") newspapers, was found dead in a park in Dnipropetrovsk in early July. Relatives say his body showed signs of torture. Co-workers at the Vestnik Priazovya say that a group of armed men stormed the newspaper's office in Mariupol in mid-June and kidnapped Dolgov. Dolgov was believed to be held by Ukrainian government forces before his death.[64]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Press Freedom Index 2014", Reporters Without Borders, 11 May 2014
  2. ^ a b Map of Press Freedom 2010, Freedom House
  3. ^ a b c Map of Press Freedom 2009, Freedom House
    Map of Freedom (of the Freedom in the World 2013 survey), Freedom House
  4. ^ a b Ukraine (Country Guide) by Sarah Johnstone and Greg Bloom, Lonely Planet, 2008, ISBN 978-1-74104-481-2 (page 39)
  5. ^ a b c d Freedom of the Press 2007: A Global Survey of Media Independence by Freedom House, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc, 2007, ISBN 978-0-7425-5582-2 (page 11/12)
  6. ^ a b Ukraine, Freedom House
  7. ^ a b CIS: Press Freedom In Former Soviet Union Under Assault, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (April 28, 2006 )
  8. ^ a b c d 2006 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Ukraine, US Department of State (March 6, 2007)
  9. ^ a b c d e 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Ukraine, US Department of State (March 11, 2010)
  10. ^ a b 2008 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Ukraine, US Department of State (February 25, 2009)
  11. ^ a b 1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Ukraine, US Department of State (February 23, 2000)
  12. ^ Local newspaper editor badly injured in assault, Reporters Without Borders (March 31, 2010)
  13. ^ Disturbing deterioration in press freedom situation since new president took over, Reporters Without Borders (April 15, 2010)
  14. ^ Media crackdown under way?, Kyiv Post (April 22, 2010)
  15. ^ HRW
  16. ^ HRW
  17. ^ a b Concerns Mount About Press Freedom In Ukraine As Journalist Attacked, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (September 21, 2010)
  18. ^ Ukraine At A Crossroads (Interdisciplinary Studies on Central and Eastern Europe) (v. 1) by Andrej Lushnycky and Nicolas Hayoz, Peter Lang Publishing, 2005, ISBN 978-3-03910-468-0 (page 21)
  19. ^ a b c Nations in Transit 2000-2001 by Adrian Karatnycky, Alexander Motyl, and Amanda Schnetzer, Transaction Publishers, 2001, ISBN 978-0-7658-0897-4 (page 397)
  20. ^ Biography of new Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, RIA Novosti (March 11, 2010)
  21. ^ Mykola Azarov: Yanukovych's Right-Hand Man, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (March 12, 2010)
  22. ^ a b 2003 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Ukraine, US Department of State (February 25, 2004)
  23. ^ a b c 2004 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Ukraine, US Department of State (February 28, 2005)
  24. ^ 2000 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Ukraine, US Department of State (February 23, 2001)
  25. ^ 2001 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Ukraine, US Department of State (March 4, 2002)
  26. ^ 2002 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Ukraine, US Department of State (March 31, 2003)
  27. ^ 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Ukraine, US Department of State (March 8, 2006)
  28. ^ More women than men support Tymoshenko, poll shows, Kyiv Post (December 7, 2009)
  29. ^ Tymoshenko accuses central TV channels of manipulating people's consciousness in favor of oligarchs, Kyiv Post (December 8, 2009)
  30. ^ a b 1+1 TV journalists claim censorship of news reports, Kyiv Post (May 6, 2009)
  31. ^ STB TV channel journalists claim imposing of censorship on STB, Kyiv Post (May 8, 2009)
  32. ^ European journalists call on Ukrainian authorities, media owners to respect press freedom, Kyiv Post (May 11, 2009)
  33. ^ Journalists, in defensive crouch, swing news coverage to Yanukovych’s favor, Kyiv Post (May 6, 2009)
  34. ^ Semynozhenko: No examples of censorship on Ukrainian TV channels, Kyiv Post (May 13, 2009)
  35. ^ a b Opposition benefiting from topic of censorship at mass media, says Hanna Herman, Kyiv Post (May 13, 2009)
  36. ^ (Ukrainian) Янукович: Україна готова, якщо Європа готова, BBC Ukrainian (May 10, 2010)
  37. ^ Special committee calls to check reports of pressure on journalists, Kyiv Post (May 13, 2009)
  38. ^ Parliament bans forced removal of state and municipal mass media offices, Kyiv Post (May 21, 2009)
  39. ^ International Press Institute: Ukraine's press freedom environment has deteriorated 'signficiantly', Kyiv Post (August 11, 2010)
  40. ^ European rapporteurs note media setback in Ukraine, Kyiv Post (October 6, 2010)
  41. ^ "Ukraine bans Russian TV channels for airing war 'propaganda' ", Natalia Zinets, Reuters, 19 August 2014.
  42. ^ Map of Press Freedom 2004, Freedom House
  43. ^ Press Freedom Index 2009, Reporters Without Borders
  44. ^ Press Freedom Index 2008, Reporters Without Borders
  45. ^ Press Freedom Index 2002, Reporters Without Borders
  46. ^ Press Freedom Index 2004, Reporters Without Borders
  47. ^ Press Freedom Index 2010, Reporters Without Borders
  48. ^ Press Freedom Index 2013, Reporters Without Borders
  49. ^ Half of all Ukrainians consider current freedom of speech level sufficient, Kyiv Post (October 15, 2009)
  50. ^ Poll: More than half of Ukrainians trust the media, Kyiv Post (December 17, 2010)
  51. ^ Country profile: Ukraine, BBC News
  52. ^ a b "UKRAINE: CPJ urges vigorous investigations, reforms". Committee to Protect Journalists. Retrieved 2006-07-05. 
  53. ^ a b c d e f g "Journalist killed, independent media harassed". International Press Institute. Retrieved 2006-07-05. 
  54. ^ "UKRAINE: Suspect charged with journalist's murder acquitted". Committee to Protect Journalists. Retrieved 2006-07-05. 
  55. ^ (Ukrainian) Фальсифікаторам справи про вбивство журналіста дали до 13 років, Ukrayinska Pravda (23 March 2012)
  56. ^ IPI concerned about death of independent news agency's director, International Press Institute (27 November 2002)
  57. ^ Missing, presumed dead: disappearance of Ukrainian journalist deepens media fears, Guardian
  58. ^ "In memoriam of Ihor Kostenko". Wikimedia Ukraine. 23 February 2014.  (Ukrainian)
  59. ^ a b c "Italian journalist Andrea Ronchelli killed in Ukraine". The Guardian. 2014-05-25. Retrieved 2014-05-29. 
  60. ^ "Russian reporter 'dies of wounds' in east Ukraine". Yahoo! News UK. 2014-06-17. Retrieved 2014-06-17. 
  61. ^
  62. ^ "Anatoly Klyan death: Russian cameraman fatally shot in Ukraine 'by government forces'". The Independent. 2014-06-30. Retrieved 2014-06-29. 
  63. ^ "Editor of Russian-Language Newspaper Tortured and Killed in Eastern Ukraine". The Moscow Times. 2014-07-14. Retrieved 2014-07-20. 

External links[edit]