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Cablegate: Ukraine's Media Monitors Decry Current State of Media In

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RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHKV #2354/01 3370522
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 020522Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY KYIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6826
INFO RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 0413
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KYIV 002354

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EUR/UMB, EUR/PPD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PBTS PINR PINS PNAT PGOV KPAI KPAO RS UP

SUBJECT: UKRAINE'S MEDIA MONITORS DECRY CURRENT STATE OF MEDIA IN
UKRAINE; TENTATIVE RESOLUTION REACHED ON BAN OF RUSSIAN TELEVISION
CHANNELS

REF: KYIV 2186

1. Summary: At a November 20 luncheon hosted by Ambassador Taylor,
ten Ukrainian media monitors and observers shared their views on the
current state of media in Ukraine. Participants agreed that,
despite great expectations, Ukraine's media development had been
disappointingly slow in the years since the 2004 Orange Revolution.
Media monitors listed the media's financial dependence on media
outlet owners (mostly oligarchs) and owners' influence on media
coverage and content as a primary concern and described the corrupt
practice of buying and selling media access as another key concern.
On a related matter, monitors predicted that the GOU would find a
way to remedy the recent ban of three Russian language cable TV
channels (see reftel) and suggested the solution would likely
involve the creation of a Ukrainian intermediary entity and the
payment of fees. (Note: this is exactly how the matter was
resolved - see para 7.) Finally, a few monitors expressed the fear
that if the next election resulted in a less democratic government,
censorship in the media could result. End Summary.

2. The media experts acknowledged that, in general, Ukraine's media
environment had changed for the better since the Orange Revolution
in 2004. At a minimum, they emphasized, today's media presents
diverse political views. They agreed that in comparison with
Russia, where journalists receive instructions from government
officials on how to cover events of interest to the Russian
government, such as the war with Georgia, Ukraine is much better
off. Most of the monitors agreed that Ukraine aims to achieve
European media standards in line with Finland, Poland and the
Baltics but that political and economic difficulties have stunted
the media's development in Ukraine. Several participants stated
that "tabloidization" and a "dumbing down" of the media is
increasing in an effort to expand circulation/numbers of viewers and
that public trust in media to report accurate information is
decreasing. They added that outside Kyiv, regional media is held in
low regard by local populations due to strict control exercised by
both local politicians and media owners over content.

FINANCIAL CRISIS AFFECTS MEDIA
------------------------------

3. The media experts described how Ukraine's current financial
crisis is affecting the media. According to one guest, out of 30,000
officially registered print and broadcast media outlets, only 8,000
are considered to be in operation, and only a few hundred in all of
Ukraine are considered fully functional. In Ukraine as a whole,
media profits have plummeted by 60 percent in 2008. Many regional
media outlets are undergoing partial closures or are cutting back on
personnel due to financial difficulties, and close to 50 percent of
all regional media are going through partial or full changes in
ownership. In rare cases, this has been a positive change. In one
example, mentioned by the Director of the Academy of the Ukrainian
Press, Valeriy Ivanov, a regional newspaper was going to close due
to financial difficulties when the leaders of two opposing political
parties worked to draw up a new ownership agreement which resulted
in unbiased political coverage. But Ivanov added that examples of
bipartisan cooperation are extremely unusual. A majority of the
participants predicted that the current economic situation would not
improve any time soon and that the closing of publications would
leave a large number of journalists looking for work.

4. The experts pointed out that to avoid bankruptcy, media outlets
rely on financial support from wealthy sponsors (often oligarchs).
Too often, they said, freedom and diversity in reporting is the
price of such sponsorship. The monitors noted that Ukrainian
businessmen who invest in media outlets use the outlets as a
personal political tool to stay in the good graces of those in power
who can in turn favor their business. Victoria Siumar, Institute of
Mass Information, and Serhiy Harmash, Research Center for the Social
Perspectives of Donbas, agreed that Ukrainian media has become a
"blind tool in the hands of those in power used for nobody's benefit
but their own." Editors-in-chief, they said, are subject to direct
and indirect coercion by their owners and the media's loyalties are
driven purely by monetary concerns and by individual politicians or
businessmen.

5. One expert pointed out that media bankruptcies could result in a
collection of larger, more financially independent and profitable
media outlets. The monitors agreed that the strongest and most
popular publications would survive the financial crisis and form a
solid foundation for what has the potential to become a more
economically independent and free press in Ukraine. Some monitors
suggested that the economic crisis creates more competition among
media outlets forcing those who want to stay afloat to strive to

KYIV 00002354 002 OF 002


attain a higher standard. There was general agreement among the
guests that for media to thrive in Ukraine there needs to be
political stability. If elections continue to take place every year,
they said, media will continue to be nothing more than a political
tool for oligarchs and politicians.

"DJYNSA" - A CORRUPT MEDIA PRACTICE
-----------------------------------

6. The media monitors discussed a common practice called "Djynsa"
(Jeans): a clearly biased, paid-for political advertisement
presented as actual news. In the past year, Djynsa has become a
popular tool used by politicians and businessmen to exert their
influence over the media - particularly print publications. To an
unsuspecting reader, a Djynsa article - published alongside regular
daily news -- may look normal, but the article contains propaganda
or presents a skewed view and should rightfully be labeled an
advertisement. Though editors realize that these "Djynsa" articles
should be either marked as a paid political advertisement or
published in a different section of the paper, they don't do this
for fear of losing their jobs. The participants noted that
journalists are often poorly paid, making such offers hard to turn
down. The experts emphasized that TV stations are also subject to
political pressure and influence and program content is adjusted
accordingly. The overall effect of the "Djynsa" phenomenon, they
added, has been to decrease public trust in the media and decrease
morale among serious journalists.

THE ROLE OF UNSPOKEN CENSORSHIP
-------------------------------

7. Media monitors complained about severe, but unspoken,
restrictions regarding the criticism of public figures. They said
that some reporters admit to feeling demoralized due to the
pressures from editors-in-chief. The monitors said that there had
been an increase this year in cases of reporters being forced to
choose between writing the truth and keeping their jobs. Television
is also subject to corruption. The recent ban of three Russian
cable channels, originally explained as enforcing international
standards regarding the re-transmission of TV broadcasts as well as
a 2006 Ukrainian law on broadcasting, turned out to be a financial
issue between the television channels and Ukraine's National Council
for Television and Radio. The Russian channels have tentatively
agreed to register with a newly-created Ukrainian legal entity
(described as an intermediary) and in some areas of the country, at
least one of the stations is back on the air. Several of the
monitors commented that if upcoming Parliamentary elections result
in a less democratic government, censorship could be a reality once
again in Ukraine.

8. Comment: In comparison to the state of Ukraine's media prior to
the Orange Revolution, when the government exercised strict control
over the media, the picture today is much brighter. However, there
is an urgent need to restructure the financial basis of media
outlets, which depend primarily on private investment from the
country's oligarchs, who pressure the outlets to cater to the
investors' political and business interests. Many young Ukrainian
journalists who are graduates of recently-opened schools of
journalism strive to achieve Western standards in their reporting,
but these inexperienced and poorly-paid journalists often become
victims of "Djynsa." Unfortunately, improvements to Ukraine's media
environment will probably not take place until the country enjoys
some political stability. Ukraine media's best hope is a strong
democratic government that will encourage and support a free and
independent media. End Comment.

TAYLOR

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