Vitaliy Dudin, for the competition “Stop censure! Citizens for free states”
When shots are heard, the provision of human rights is always problematic. And the rights such as freedom of speech in our country are not considered rights at all. This is especially noticeable today, when perception only knows the difference between black and white.
Are Ukrainian mass media free? Their economical dependence on private owners seems critical. Oligarchs control up to 80% of the media market. Is there anything bad in this? I doubt that any national mass medium would even allow to begin a discussion on this topic.
Is there a problem of censure in Ukraine? One wants to say that no. What is more, one would like to add, “unfortunately.” Because for this it is necessary for the owners or the government to disagree with the journalists’ position. And, frequently sympathising with liberal-nationalistic ideology, journalists consider it their duty to serve the motherland instead of serving truth. And they are ready to kiss their rights goodbye for the sake of what they call national interests.
“Journalists are called to make light of wisdom, greatness, beauty of the Ukrainian nation,” this is how the media workers’ duty is seen in the greeting for their professional holiday published on the website of the odious Committee in Questions of Protecting Social Morality.
In individual cases, mass media workers evaluate the occurrence, putting everything in its place.
“As is known, starting March separatists, supporters of federalisation of our country and pro-Russian powers have been causing mass disorders in the east and south of Ukraine…” notes one of the leading mass media in a news reports which, it would seem, does not tolerate any subjectivism. In other situations they distance themselves from evaluations. Thus, the ultra-right representatives during Maidan were shamefully deemed “provocateurs,” “unknown individuals” etc. Under such conditions it is not surprising that the representatives of one of the “unknown” parliamentary parties may threaten those who disagree with their opinion.
Our journalism is not immune to censure. Yes, it does not like Yanukovych, the titushky or Putin’s Russia, however when one is talking about the implementation of repressive mechanisms, everything depends on whom their attack is directed at. The state is doing everything in order to retain this situation. Today it is comfortable to do so because of security issues.
The project of the President’s Order “Regarding the approval of the Strategy of development of Ukraine’s informational space” prepared by the State Committee for TV and Radio speak of “the involvement of the mass media in the fight against instances of separatism, terrorism, corruption and other instances which threaten Ukrainian national security.” Such an overt approach to the definition of the journalists’ role is not even laid out in the Doctrine of Information Security of the Russian Federation, so hated by our media (however, it is hated for its decoration and not its authoritarianism or conservatism).
The bill “Regarding the bases of information security of Ukraine,” prepared by representatives of the Party of Regions, “Batkivshchina” and “Svoboda,” is exemplary as well. In contrast to the current Doctrine of information security of Ukraine, it does not contain the priorities of “forming and developing democratic institutions of civil society” and “informatisation of the processes of formation, distribution and control of usage of state funds” for some reason.
It looks symbolic: the war allows us to forget corruption or the shortcomings of Ukrainian democracy. In the best tradition of our nation, it is proposed to create yet another National Committee, which would supervise every single journalist.
The most scandalous initiatives which could not have been passed because of the journalists’ opposition during Yanukovych’s times have good chances of being approved now. Society is being prepared for the return of responsibility for libel and “excusing extremism” in a new form. The State Radio and TV Committee has prepared the bill “regarding counteraction to informational aggression of foreign states,” which implements criminal responsibility for the “intentional publication of erroneous socially significant information,” “the usage of covert means of influence on consciousness in mass media,” and “the intentional publications of media, which is humiliating to Ukraine or erroneous.” It would seem that the responsibility for such violations should be purely reputational.
But it looks like morals, for the protection of which millions have been and will be spent, did not become a regulator in our society. When the state controls the sphere of civic freedoms, this results in its decrease.
It is not excluded that a bill regarding the protection of copyright material in the Internet will be passed as well, which would allow to shut down websites for copyright violations. In this world such initiatives elicit harsh criticisms, meanwhile in our country everything directed at the protection of property rights of individual people is celebrated as a step in everyone’s favour.
The conflict in the east of Ukraine is not the result of “insufficient patriotism” of our mass media, as our government is saying. It is the result of them heeding their masters and not allowing regular people to express themselves. Oligarch mass media can stand to protect any model of territorial order, over which blood is currently being spilt. But they will not raise the issue of the righteousness of the oligarch order, which is the source of all problems. It is necessary not to create new government committees, but to provide access to the media for the people, turning them into public spaces for solving communal issues.
In other words, free mass media cannot be the object of property rights or a bolt in the state propaganda machine. It is possible that the adherence to this one ban would save freedom of speech from the numerous repressions and limitations.
Translated by Mariya Shcherbinina