The International Federation of Journalists today called on journalists around the world to support Ukraine reporters who went on strike against censorship at UT1, a major state-controlled TV station.
“The chaos in the country after the Presidential election will only get worse if media are forced to distort the truth,” warned IFJ General Secretary Aidan White today. “Our colleagues in Kyiv are determined to try to do their jobs without being forced to take sides. We will give them our full support”.
Around 14 journalists, two thirds of the newsroom staff, are refusing to work in protest against censorship. “It doesn’t matter who is in power, journalists must be free to do their jobs,” one of the strikers told the IFJ.
The strikers fear a lock-out: policemen have been stationed on all floors of the building and strikers are refusing to leave the building until it is clear they will be allowed to return.
The IFJ says that at this time of political crisis, Ukrainians need objective information on which to base their actions.
Meanwhile, there are serious fears of a renewed onslaught on TV station Channel 5, which is known for its independent reporting and which has encountered constant obstructions since it was set up a year ago. The Channel is being blacked out in the regions. This morning the channel’s signal was cut off in Odessa and for the last few days there has been no signal in Uzhgorod, a major town in western Ukraine. In Kiev yesterday the signal was temporarily cut off in several parts of the city.
In Kharkov oblast a town council has called on the government to cut off broadcasts of the Era and Tonis TV channels, also known for their more balanced reporting.
Moreover, last night the National Council on Radio and TV Broadcasting called an emergency session amidst fears that the session would revoke Channel 5’s license, but protests prevented the session from taking place.
Commenting on the situation, Valery Ivanov, head of the Ukrainian Press Academy has told the IFJ: “I constantly expect an attempt to close down the channel. The stakes are very high. The government is weighing up the advantages of closing down the station against the protests this would provoke.”
The Independent Union of Journalists of Ukraine has told the IFJ that its members across the country who do not give one-sided support for Viktor Yanukovych, the candidate supported by the current government, are experiencing serious problems.
The state postal service has refused to distribute the newspaper MIG in Zaporizhie, eastern Ukraine; sellers of the newspaper Panorama in Sumi (north-West Ukraine) have been threatened today by skinheads; radio stations well-known for their objective broadcasting in Kharkov were cut off yesterday just 5 minutes before a mass meeting in support of opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko.
The IFJ says the Ukrainian authorities should condemn these actions and stop obstruction and intimidation of media.
“Censorship, intimidation and violence will not solve the current crisis”, said Aidan White. “If anything, they will only make the situation far worse”.
For more information call :
The IFJ observer in Kyiv, David Crouch, on +44 7801 789 297
The Independent Union of Journalists of Ukraine: +38 044 537 2003
Strikers at UT1 : Maxim Drabok, +38 097 337 3839
For background on the media and the elections, go to the IFJ Report:
Democracy in the News: Journalists Act Over Ukraine Media Bias
Statement by journalists on UT1 TV channel:
“To all citizens of Ukraine, all mass media in Ukraine and across the world, to all international missions and organizations, to diplomats, to all those who are not indifferent to the fate of the Ukrainian nation.
“WE, JOURNALISTS OF UT1 NEWS, ARE ON STRIKE”
“For a month we have negotiated with management. We have tried to change the situation and give balanced and objective news. Unfortunately we didn’t get the result we wanted. Management is powerless to influence the content of the news. In this they are breaking the law on information, which gives Ukrainians the right to objective, full information. We therefore consider such news illegitimate and want no part in its production.”
“We want to remind you that national TV exists on tax-payers money. This money does not belong to the government or some other body, it is paid to the treasury by all citizens of Ukraine. Why should we, citizens ourselves, broadcast dishonest and false information, working according to “temniks” [instructions from the state on how to report events], and therefore be responsible for lies?”
“Ukrainians, we have conquered our fear because there is an even stronger feeling: shame. We call on producers and editors to think hard about their duties to the people.”