A guide to the Ukrainian media: priceless!

Posted by Georgi Gotev on 13/12/13

I received this excellent text from Vadym Omelchenko from the Gorshenin institute. I want to share it with all interested immediately, and I basically made no edits:

“In the tensed situation in Ukraine today, the Gorshenin Institute experts analyse both the essential senses and the resources used in the political battle occurring today in Ukraine. We are often asked today what the likely developments are and how far the confrontation could go. The answer to this question depends on many factors. Here I want to touch upon a major aspect. One of the main resources in such situations is obviously the mass media. Here is a snapshot of the Ukrainian media just before the protests occurred. All the central TV stations in Ukraine were controlled by the power and oligarchs. It was the same for the nation-wide printed media. It is worth mentioning here that shortly before the events, the largest Ukrainian media group – UMH – was sold to the emerging Ukrainian oligarch Sergiy Kurchenko who is considered by Ukrainian experts to be linked to the closest entourage of President Yanukovych. This group comprises more than 90 media, including top-ranked Forbes Ukraine and Korrespondent. Obviously, all the aforementioned media were loyal to the power, and their information policy was accorded with the strategies of Yanukovych at a given moment. Thus, for example, at the stage of the preparations for the signature of the agreement with the EU, these media actively promoted the idea of the European integration, and after the failure to sign, as actively they were explaining the reasons for the re-orientation towards Russia. A few top internet sites were remaining an island of freedom, including Ukrainska Pravda, lb.ua, censor.net.ua and some other.
The situation started changing rapidly with the burst of protests. These were the internet sites that were the first to undergo attacks. According to IT-specialists, the denial-of-service( DDos) attacks that have been practiced for already one month continuously, 24h round, are unprecedented for their intensity and technical support in the history of the Ukrainian Internet. In terms of technology and intensity, specialists compare those to the attacks on the web site of the Russian opposition publication “Novaya Gazeta”.
As result, all these sites have experienced full cuts several times, or operated with irregularities. We have an extended technical understanding about the types of the DDos attacks applied, but experts draw our attention to another point. These attacks are targeted not at just one publication, but at all the top-ranked internet media. The largest Ukrainian internet portal ukr.net suffered as result of the attack. i.e., the intensity of the attack is such that even providers are not able to withstand the load.
And this has occurred despite the fact that all the Ukrainian top sites are operating based on remote servers located in Europe or in the USA. However, the specialists have coped to mobilize and find technical solutions allowing for a relatively seamless operation of the sites and online coverage of all the events happening in the country. However, everybody understands that the attacks continue, the aggressor tests the sites protection, and the likelihood of a simultaneous cut of all the internet resources in Ukraine is not excluded. The pressure on the internet media went beyond just Ddos attacks, culminating in the Berkut special police detachment breaking into the office of cenzor.net publication on 9 December and destroying the servers.
As curious is the situation in the televised and printed media after the start of the protests. Top-ranked Ukrainian TV stations owned by Ukrainian oligarchs and covering the whole territory of Ukraine have manifested and continue keeping an objective attitude. TV channels Inter owned by oligarch Dmytro Firtash, 1+1 owned by Igor Kolomoyskiy and Privat Group, EastOne founder Victor Pinchuk’s media holding comprising channels ICTV, STB and Novy, and even Ukraina TV and radio company belonging to Rinat Akhmetov, regularly provide objective information about the events in Ukraine in their news. They present both the chronicles of protest and the reaction of the Ukrainian and international politicians, their local correspondents provide immediate information from all Ukrainian regions. The news reports are balanced, and do not have the manipulative or partial character typical for Ukrainian media. There is no censorship either.
One may have a feeling that the journalist teams have an emotional sympathy for the protesters. And if with regard to the Ukrainian politicians, the attitude is cautiously neutral, the TV stations have a strongly critical attitude as for the representatives of the law enforcement bodies involved in the crackdowns and in the beating of the protesters.
At the same time, it is important to note that none of the central TV channels switches on a continuous live streaming at even the most emotionally tensed moments. Even the 5th channel owned by Petro Poroshenko does not provide a continuous live streaming from Maidan. It is amusing to see how, at the moment when there is a one-million people march on the streets of Kyiv and activists are speaking from the stage of Maidan, the channel plays commercials for fitness machines. I.e. everything is reduced to rather regular news editions.
We read this as a the revolutionism or revolution turnaround missing in the Ukrainian media’s attitude. Which is rather reflective of the state of things in the society. Our monitoring of the printed media shows that the media controlled by Kurchenko and VETEK media holding present more the position of the President, and criticize the opposition. Furthermore, they stress on the success of the leadership in the foreign policy, including the European direction. The civil strength of the protest is hushed to a certain extent. According to these media, the protest is organized by the opposition leaders whose popularity is dubious. These media also speculate on the advantages and disadvantages of Ukraine’s European and Russian vectors. At the same time, the largest daily newspapers Fakty (Pinchuk) and Segodnia (Akhmetov) present an objective image. Moreover, positive coverage of the rallies and protests and criticism prevail in Fakty. Zerkalo Nedeli (Mirror Weekly), an independent Ukrainian media, traditionally reflects the position of the civil society in a fair manner.
It is to mention that the local media in the East of Ukraine are under control of the central and local administrations, at the same time as in the West of Ukraine, the media are independent. The inhabitants of the eastern regions get also information from the Russian TV channels, although their audience, according to the measurements made by the Gorshenin Institute, tend to shrink from year to year. Thus, today, one may say that the position of the central Ukrainian media is a major resource for the civil society. It is via the position of the Ukrainian media that the citizens of Ukraine join the protests rather than vice versa. This is another important element differentiating Ukraine from other post-Soviet states.”

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Georgi Gotev is senior editor of EurActiv more.



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