IFJ/EFJ Back Strikers at Ukrainian TV Station

The International

Federation of Journalists (IFJ), and its European member, the European

Federation of Journalists (EFJ), have today backed a strike by staff from

Ukranian broadcasting station TVi and called for transparent and regulated

media ownership in the country.

 

According

to IFJ affiliate, the Independent Media Trade Union of Ukraine (IMTUU), staff

from TVi began the strike yesterday, Wednesday, 24 April, following an

aggressive overnight takeover by the station’s new owner, America businessman

Alexander Altman, and new director, journalist Artem Shevchenko, which

journalists only learned about when they arrived at work to find the building

surrounded by heavy security on Tuesday morning.

 

The

IMTUU says the strike was also called because the new director forbid

journalists at the station from producing any stories about the events of the

takeover on the station’s evening programme. While the new management issued

assurances that there would be no change to the editorial line, within 24 hours

Pavlo Sheremeta, who heads up the evening news programme, was informed that his

contract was terminated.

 

“It is

shocking that an unknown group can take control of a major media company

overnight and call in the police the following morning to protect the building

before any of the staff have even arrived. Similar reckless treatment of media

and staff are likely to occur if the principles of media ownership in the

country remain unclear,” said IFJ President Jim Boumelha.

 

“We

call for full transparency and regulation over media ownership in the Ukraine

and the introduction of legislation that guarantees transparency, pluralism and

limits on media ownership.

 

“The

current situation is harming the reputation of the channel and is weakening

freedom of speech within the Ukraine, so we also encourage the management to

enter a dialogue with the journalists to settle the dispute and protect the

reputation of this respected media organisation.”

 

The

IMTUU, which has formed a branch within the TV station that will encourage

discussion between the two parties, says the situation began when journalists

were prevented from entering the station’s building by armed guards when they

arrived for work last Tuesday, 23 April. The station’s previous owner and

director were also prevented from entering. 

 

Later

that same day, the new owner and director called a general meeting with staff

where the new director told journalists they could not comment on the situation

in the station’s evening news programme. According to the IMTUU, it was this

action that led to the decision to strike.

 

“Once

again we see important media institutions, essential for the Ukrainian

democracy, being treated as toys by the rich and powerful,” said EFJ President

Arne Konig. “ It is little wonder that the journalists doubt the

commitments of the new owner to maintaining the same standards and editorial

lines when they are greeted by armed guards and the first protests result in

the termination of a leading news presenter’s contract.’

 

“We

urge the new owner to start an immediate dialogue with the journalists and the

IMTUU to resolve the differences and that will guarantee the continued rights

and conditions of the employees.”

 

The

IMTUU says it is observing the strike and will provide legal and political

support for staff members if there is a violation of their rights.

 

For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 17
The IFJ represents more than 600.000 journalists in 134 countries