Freedom of the press in Ukraine
As of December 2014, Freedom House classifies the Internet in Ukraine as "free" and the press as "not free". Press freedom had significantly improved since the Orange Revolution of 2004. However, in 2010 Freedom House perceived "negative trends in Ukraine".
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. Media at times demonstrated a tendency toward self‑censorship on matters that the government deemed sensitive. 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. Media watchdog groups have express concern over the extremely high monetary damages that were demanded in court cases concerning libel.
In Ukraine’s provinces numerous, anonymous attacks and threats persisted against journalists, who investigated or exposed corruption or other government misdeeds. 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.” Media watchdogs have stated attacks and pressure on journalists have increased since the February 2010 election of Viktor Yanukovych as President.
In Ukraine many news-outlets are financed by wealthy investors and reflected the political and economic interests of their owners.
After the (only) term of office of the first Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk ended in 1994, the freedom of the press worsened. During the presidency of Leonid Kuchma (1994–2004) several news-outlets critical to the him were forcefully closed. In 1999 the Committee to Protect Journalists placed Kuchma on the list of worst enemy's of the press. 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), libel cases, subsidization, and intimidation of journalists; this caused many journalists to practice self-censorship. In 2003 and 2004 authorities interfered with the media by issuing written and oral instructions about what events to cover. 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.
Since the Orange Revolution (of 2004) Ukrainian media has become more pluralistic and independent. For instance, attempts by authorities to limit freedom of the press through tax inspections have ceased. Since then the Ukrainian press is considered to be among the freest of all post-Soviet states (only the Baltic states are considered "free").
In December 2009 during the 2010 Ukrainian presidential election campaign incumbent Prime Minister of Ukraine and presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko complained Ukrainian TV channels are manipulating the consciousness of citizens in favor of financial and oligarchic groups.
In Spring 2010 Ukrainian journalists, the European Federation of Journalists and Reporters Without Borders all complained of censorship by President Yanukovych's administration. 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’. 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. The Azarov Government denies censoring the media, so did the Presidential Administration and President Yanukovych himself. 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. 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.
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.
Since the February 2010 election of Viktor Yanukovych as President Media watchdogs have stated attacks and pressure on journalists have increased. 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. 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". 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.
The ongoing crisis in Ukraine has resulted in a major threat to press freedom in recent months. A May report from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) found approximately 300 instances of violent attacks on the media in Ukraine since November 2013.
Amid tensions with Russia, Kiev is not tolerating any other points of view in the press. Under the impact of war and extreme social polarization, the democratic credentials of the pro-European Kiev government have been slipping as well. A crackdown on what authorities describe as “pro-separatist” points of view has triggered dismay among Western human rights monitors. For example, the September 11, 2014 shutdown of the independent Kiev-based Vesti newspaper by the Ukrainian Security Service for “violating Ukraine’s territorial integrity” brought swift condemnation from the international Committee to Protect Journalists and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) broke into the office of a Kiev-based digital newspaper “Vesti”, physically trapping reporters and ultimately shutting down the website.
Vesti News's editor-in-chief Igor Guzhva wrote on his Facebook page that the news outlet had been raided by SBU. The SBU reportedly took all servers, kept staffers in a "hot corridor" and shut down the website completely. Guzhva said that the purpose of the raid was "to block our work.". “Journalists are not being let into their office," Guzhva wrote. "Those who were already inside at the moment of the raid are being kept in the building and are not allowed to use cell phones.”
Guzhva said that this is the second time in just six months that the SBU has tried to "intimidate" its editors. He added that he is unsure of the reason for the raid, but suspects that it might have to do with a story the website recently published on the SBU chief's daughter.
Ukraine has also shut down most Russia-based television stations on the grounds that they purvey “propaganda,” and barred a growing list of Russian journalists from entering the country.
The Ministry of Information Policy was established on 2 December 2014. It was created concurrently with the formation of the Second Yatsenyuk Government, after the October 2014 Ukrainian parliamentary election. The ministry oversees information policy in Ukraine. According to the first Minister of Information, Yuriy Stets, one of the goals of its formation was to counteract "Russian information aggression" amidst pro-Russian unrest across Ukraine, and the ongoing war in the Donbass region. Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko said that the main function of the ministry is to stop "the spreading of biased information about Ukraine".
In 2014 Ukraine blocked 14 Russian television channels from its cable networks.
The report Freedom in the World (by Freedom House) rated Ukraine "partly free" since/from 1992 till 2003, when it was rated "not free". Since 2005 it is rated "partly free" again. According to Freedom House internet in Ukraine is "Free" and the press is "Partly Free".
Ukraine's ranking in Reporters Without Borders´s Press Freedom Index has long been around the 90th spot (89 in 2009, 87 in 2008), while it occupied the 112th spot in 2002 and even the 132nd spot in 2004. 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". 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". In the 2014 World Press Freedom Index Ukraine was placed 127th.
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.
In a late 2010 poll also conducted by the Research & Branding Group 56% of all Ukrainians trusted the media and 38.5% didn't.
Timeline of reporters killed in Ukraine
|1995||April||Volodymyr Ivanov of Slava Sevastopolya, in Sevastopol |
|1996||May||Ihor Hrushetsky in Cherkasy|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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. Four former policemen were sentenced to 7-13 years imprisonment for fraud during the criminal case involving Oleksandrov in March 2012.|
|2002||27 November||Mykhailo Kolomiets, co-founder of Ukrainian News Agency found dead hanging on a tree in Belarus.|
|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, Vlasti.net. Police did not rule out the possibility of murder.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|2014||24 May||Andrea Ronchelli, Italian photojournalist killed in unclear circumstances while covering the Siege of Sloviansk. Ronchelli's Russian interpreter, Andrey Mironov, was also killed. 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.|
|2014||17 June||Igor Kornelyuk, Russian reporter died in hospital of wounds. According to a spokesperson of the Lugansk People's Republic, previously he was caught in a mortar firefight staged by Ukrainian forces and his fate along with Voloshin and other 15 rebels who were them was not known.|
|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, according to Moscow Times. Klyan was in a bus with mothers of soldiers who reportedly wanted to negotiate with the Ukrainian troops. Klyan died shortly afterwards. Ukrainian officials promised to investigate the incident.|
|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. According to the chief of SBU in Mariupol, Serhiy Spasytel, Dolgov was detained and taken to Zaporizhia.|
|2014||August||Andrey Stenin, photojournalist for Rossiya Segodnya.|
|2014||November||Aleksandr Kuchinsky, prominent crime reporter, and his wife were murdered. |
- Human rights in Ukraine
- Internet censorship and surveillance in Ukraine
- List of newspapers in Ukraine
- Media of Ukraine
- Telecommunications in Ukraine
- Television in Ukraine
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- Map of Press Freedom 2010, Freedom House
- Map of Press Freedom 2009, Freedom House
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- More women than men support Tymoshenko, poll shows, Kyiv Post (December 7, 2009)
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- STB TV channel journalists claim imposing of censorship on STB, Kyiv Post (May 8, 2009)
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- Journalists, in defensive crouch, swing news coverage to Yanukovych’s favor, Kyiv Post (May 6, 2009)
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- Special committee calls to check reports of pressure on journalists, Kyiv Post (May 13, 2009)
- Parliament bans forced removal of state and municipal mass media offices, Kyiv Post (May 21, 2009)
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- Rada supports coalition-proposed government lineup, Interfax-Ukraine (2 December 2014)
Rada approves new Cabinet with three foreigners, Kyiv Post (2 December 2014)
(Ukrainian) Rada voted the new Cabinet, Ukrayinska Pravda (2 December 2014)
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- Press Freedom Index 2010, Reporters Without Borders
- Press Freedom Index 2013, Reporters Without Borders
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