Media pattern and
There are few state-controlled media and even
those at the local level. They could hardly be called independent as they
select e.g. talk show guests according to political preference. Most of the
media are being controlled by oligarchs, including President Poroshenko’s “5th
Channel”. The constitution guarantees
freedom of speech and expression, and libel is not criminalised. The media
landscape features considerable pluralism; however, this variety is rather
based on a variety of vested interests. Business moguls with differing
political interests own and influence TVs with the highest audience rating,
i.e. Kolomoysky (1+1), Dmytro Firtash (Inter), Rinat Akhmetov (Ukraine), Viktor
Pinchuk (Novy Kanal, STB, ICTV), Andriy Podshchypkov (112),
Yevhen Murayev and Vadym Rabinovich (Newsone).
TV is still not just by far the most popular media channel. It is, moreover,
crucial during election campaigns, when instrumentalised as a means of deciding
a political struggle.
While there are also
non-oligarch media in Ukraine, they do not have comparable outreach. The former
state TV channel “Pershyi UA” is being turned into a public broadcasting TV
with international financial and technical assistance. The FM radio station
“Hromadske Radio” and the TV channel “Hromadske TV” are financed neither from
the state nor from oligarchs, but supported by international donors and
fundraising/crowdfunding. Both aim to be
quality products with an ascending trend.
Influence of the war in the
Other threats to
media freedom are particularly caused by the war in Donbas. A new challenge for Ukrainian media is the
so-called “loyalty journalism”, the
behaviour of patriotic journalists who cover events one-sidedly and refrain
from criticism of Ukrainian civilian and military leaders, even by concealing
critical information. This phenomenon also causes journalists’ self-censorship.
Occasionally, it is supported by “administrative resources” (the non-transparent
granting of advantages). There are book
black listings and bans of certain journalists entering the country. In September 2015, President Poroshenko,
by Presidential Decree, based
on a decision of the National Security and Defense Council, banned more than 38
international journalists and bloggers from entering Ukraine, citing security
reasons. Initially, the ban was imposed on 44 persons and media. After a
critical response of Ukrainian and international journalist organisations six
journalists (2 Spanish, 2 British and 1 German among them) were taken off the list.
Russian TV channels have been banned by the National Council of Television and Radio
Broadcasting for their “subversive contents” in the course of the “ideological
the separatist-controlled areas in Donbas, access and travel of critical
journalists and foreign observers is severely restricted and/or dangerous.
Furthermore, those working there are facing criticism for “fraternising” with
Publishing personal data of
journalists who were accredited in the separatist-controlled
areas of Donbas, by the Ukrainian internet site “Mirotvorets” caused a scandal.
The site is regarded to be close to the Minister of the Interior Arsen Avakov
and his ally, Rada-deputy Anton
Herashchenko. The publication, a direct violation of the Ukrainian law on personal data protection,
led to a wave of hate attacks against the concerned journalists.
of Information Policy, established in December 2014, did not succeed in its
self-proclaimed goal of renewing Ukrainian broadcasting in the Donbas and the
areas under separatist control. Its main aim is counteracting Russian
propaganda, but the Ukrainian public is largely doubtful of the necessity of
such a ministry.
debates on TV are very popular. Usually they are aired on smaller channels
with lower coverage (via satellite, Internet, cable TV) of about 30-40% of the
public, while the big (oligarch-supported) channels cover about 95% and could
be received with a simple antenna. It is not uncommon that the shows fuel
populism or that politicians pay for air time.
In September 2015, TV-Channel “1+1” suspended a talk show shortly before
broadcasting. Most likely, only the authority of the Presidential
Administration could force a channel to suspend a political talk show. Furthermore, a local branch of the State Employment Service
withdrew the job permission of the disgraced moderator Savic Shuster, undone later under civic society and lawyers’
protests. Meanwhile, the State Fiscal Service began tax evasion investigations
against the TV-company “Savic Shuster Studio” that is for the time being
continuing broadcast via its own Channel (3s.tv), with smaller outreach.
On 20 July 2016,
the well-known journalist Pavel Sheremet
was killed by a car bomb blast in downtown Kyiv. He worked for the Internet
edition of Ukrainska Pravda and the
FM radio Vesti, both private media.
The internet media group Ukrainska Pravda
is considered to be independent, owned by its
co-founder Olena Pritula. The FM radio Vesti is connected with Oleksandr
Klymenko, a former Minister under
As a body of civic
control of media there is the Commission
on Journalistic Ethics. While it
used to be a rather efficient structure, it has been lately undergoing an
internal crisis, because of the questionable activities of its Secretary
(breach of contract for foreign grants).