Since President Viktor Yanukovych took, office the media situation in Ukraine has worsened. This June, DW-AKADEMIE conducted a workshop for staff from local television stations.
The media in Ukraine have been under pressure since Yanukovych took office in February. Journalists from the national television station “1+1” and “STB” recently complained in open letters about censorship and outside influence on their reporting. External observers aren’t sure whether the stations’ editors-in-chief or managers are putting limits on their staff or whether the reporters are practising self-censorship.
Opposition politicians, however, are complaining that since Yanukovych’s inauguration they have been given very little air time. In early June, the two TV stations close to the opposition, “TVI” and “Channel 5”, lost their licenses. “Much has changed since Viktor Yanukovych took office in February,” confirms Svetlana Bakumovets from the TV station “Sich” in Nikopol. “There’s more pressure on journalists now – not openly, but in a more furtive way.”
Svetlana Bakumovets took part in the DW-AKADEMIE workshop “Local Television Reporting” held June 6 – 11 in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. She says information is increasingly being labeled as confidential and a growing amount of officially approved material is being aired. One example, she says, came at the end of April. “We reported from Kiev about the visit to Ukraine by the European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, Stefan Füle. The only thing we could film was a press conference at the Foreign Ministry. We couldn’t access the Cabinet of Ministers, the Presidential Administration or the Supreme Council.” Access was much easier when others were in power. “Now we’re at the point where TV stations in Kiev which air programs across the country have to use videos from the press office of the Cabinet of Ministers or the Presidential Administration.”
During the DW-AKADEMIE workshop, basic journalistic standards were discussed and established to give the participants a reference point for their work and confidence in their daily professional life. “The goal of the workshop was to really discuss the role and importance of local reporters,” DW-AKADEMIE project manager, Clemens Hoffmann, explains. Using real topics the participants learned about and practised the basics of local television reporting. “The workshop enabled our colleagues to focus on a specific topic, to plan and structure it, and to conduct focused interviews,” says Hoffmann.
“DW-AKADEMIE workshops give us support as journalists and help us refine our skills,” says TV journalist Bakumovets. “I try, for example, not to think about the political situation in the country but to produce something useful for people.” That only works, she says, as long as political structures are not criticized. “The only area we can still criticize – and only very gently – is the work of the civil servants.” She gives the reason: “The media are all under the influence of people close to those in power.” In the stations themselves conditions have hardly changed. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re a good professional journalist or not,” she adds. “If somebody doesn’t like your report, they just say ‘Good-bye!’ We’re looking for students who can do the same work for half the price.’”
DW-AKADEMIE project manager Clemens Hoffman believes that in the short or the long run, the stations won’t be able to do without professional staff. “In addition to looking at the basic questions regarding journalistic ethics during our workshops, we try not to lose sight of the practical problems our Ukrainian colleagues face on location. The long-term goal is to create a network of journalists in the region and to assist them as a group.”