The International Federation of Journalists today warned that a decision to axe Ukrainian language broadcasts by Radio Liberty, the United States funded international communications service, “smacks of old-style political interference” in the run-up to national elections this October.
The ban, which takes effect from February 17th, has been announced by the new management of Radio Dovira (“Trust”), which for the past five years has been re-transmitting morning and evening broadcasts of Radio Liberty on its FM frequency throughout the country.
“Although the announcement is made in the context of plans to change the concept of the Radio station, the reality is that the new management has links with the party of President Leonid Kuchma,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “In reality this smacks of old style-political interference to try to undermine a broadcaster that is giving voice to alternative political opinions in the Ukraine.”
Sergei Kchigin who was appointed the head of Radio Dovira in January this year is now an ex-member of Social Democratic Party of the Ukraine, but is said by observers to maintain links with the party, which has been in power for almost five years.
The IFJ is concerned that in the coming months there will be new attempts to exert pressure on foreign broadcasters and that foreign organisations that have supported press freedom groups in the Ukraine will become the targets of political pressure.
The new management of Radio Dovira says that the style and form of Radio Liberty does not suit the company’s new concepts and must be changed. As a result, Ukraine listeners
will only be able to hear Radio Liberty on short wave which is broadcast from Prague.
“The FM networks are vital to reaching mainstream audiences in the Ukraine, “ said White. “This actions raise grave suspicions about how critical and independent media will be treated in the coming months.”
Ukrainian opposition parties are calling for effective networks of broadcasting in FM to overcome governmental influence on mass media in the months leading up to the elections.
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries