The call for independence by Ukrainian TV journalists announced at an open-air press conference in Kiev last Thursday has had a noticeable impact on coverage of Sunday’s presidential elections, which until now have been marred by widespread black propaganda against the leading opposition candidate.
Since protests began last week journalists have been subject to attacks and victimization by television managements who accused them of being manipulated by the opposition. On Friday, seven journalists at 1+1, the second largest channel, walked out “after the failure of all our attempts to stop censorship” at the station.
“Our colleagues stand tall despite life-threatening pressures from management and their political masters,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “Journalists are showing great courage to defend their rights. We support them every step of the way”.
Forty-two journalists from five main TV channels declared they would strictly observe professional ethics and refuse to compile unsourced reports and ignore alternative opinions. Within two days their number grew to 181 from 18 TV channels. On Friday, a large meeting of journalists from six central channels agreed to:
As a result, TV news and news analysis but noticeably improved. On Friday, the public channel UT-1 broadcast for the first time an interview with Viktor Yushenko, the leading opposition candidate. Later it broadcast an interview with Nikolai Tomenko, head of the parliamentary Committee on Free Speech. Since last Thursday obvious lies and black propaganda have been largely eliminated with TV channels broadcasting a number of some sound and balanced reports.
“Where there are changes it is thanks to the commitment and determination of journalists fighting for free speech,” said White, “but it is intolerable that at the same time pressure continues to be put on our colleagues to toe the line. We must ensure that independent and professional coverage now becomes the norm in the run-up to the second-round of the elections due on November 21”.
An IFJ mission currently in Kiev is closely following the election process and in particular the events surrounding the independent TV station, Channel 5, where staff went on hunger strike a week ago, following a court decision to revoke the station’s license and freeze its bank accounts. A court hearing today may resolve the dispute.
The IFJ is supporting the protests organized by the Independent Media Trade Union of Ukraine (IMTUU) and is urging journalists across the globe to rush messages of support for Ukrainian TV journalists to: [email protected]
For more information:
Robert Shaw, IFJ Brussels – Tel: +32 496 205 447
David Crouch, IFJ Kiev - Tel +44 7801 789 297
The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in over 110 countries