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Ukrainian media: between elections and ‘war’

Ukrainian media: between elections and ‘war’
Article by: Iryna Stelmakh
Translated by: Mariya Shcherbinina
Kyiv – Despite the approaching early parliamentary elections, the Ukrainian media are not fully involved in the pre electoral struggle. The electoral content does not surpass 30%, which is a small number, media experts say. The most ‘yellow press’ is published by regional media, however, some national ones are traditionally engaged in war with each other. Radio Liberty gathered the monitoring results of civil organization Telekritika, the Ukrainian Press Academy and the Common Space Association, to see whose side the Ukrainian media are on: the politicians’ and owners’ or that of the people.

Already at the beginning of the electoral campaign for the early parliamentary elections, the sympathies and antipathies of the Ukrainian media became very obvious. As such, among the parties, the most airtime was lent to Petro Poroshenko’s Block – almost 18%, Batkivshchina – 6,6%, People’s Front – 4,8%, Opposition Block – 3,6%. The least airtime was given to Strong Ukraine, the CPU and the Civil Position – less than 1%.

However, the percentage of electoral content constitutes between 11 and 35 percent, which is not much for three weeks until the elections, says Common Space association. Most news issues or publications in the press and online media today have to do more with combat in the east than the elections. As such, the media are ‘divided between war and the elections,’ meanwhile the voters do not receive necessary information to decide whom to vote for, says head of the committee Equality of Opportunity, head of the monitoring projects of Common Space association Oleksandr Chekmyshev.

“At this stage the voter has no normally-organized debates, no normal analysis of the previous Parliament’s activity and no analysis of the realism or populism of the current promises, they have even difficulty identifying the political players,” the expert notes.

The leaders of the country are political propagandists?

Instead of the political parties, the media present the heads of the country more, meanwhile their party is not emphasized, the concentration is on their posts, which does not orient the voter in ‘who is who,’ Oleksandr Chekmyshev adds.

What is more noticeable in the television space is the ‘war of blackmail’ between the media associated with oligarchs Firtash-Lyovochkin and Kolomoysky.

Political press for Liashko instead of Dovzhenko’s birthday

Experts have seen the biggest number of made-to-order and masked materials in regional media, which have already taken up the work of majority candidates. However, the voter should find it very easy to detect such political press in the media, Oleksandr Chekmyshev says.

“A classical example is news who information basis should have been, ‘September 12 – Dovzhenko’s Birthday,’ but one medium reports that Mr. Liashko visited Sosnytsia,” he illustrates.

Dutsyk: there will be no political press if there are transparent elections

Journalists are not the first to blame for sellout and masked political advertisement materials, as their emergence is first and foremost tied to the lack of transparency in party financing, says Mediasapiens project editor-in-chief Diana Dutsyk.

“We criticize the concept of political advertising. We write a lot about it, but we do nothing to put an end to this occurrence. We cannot solve the issue of political press if we do not solve the issue of transparent financing for the elections. And in this context we cannot blame the journalists alone, as at least two sides are involved in corruption,” she says.

The politicians usually buy made-to-order press using not the official electoral campaign budget but illegal funds which have doubtful sources, Diana Dutsyk emphasizes, and until these billions are not out of the ‘shadow,’ political advertising will never leave Ukrainian media.

Translated by: Mariya Shcherbinina
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