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Main messages on mass media Zelensky voiced. IMI analysis

21.05.2021, 10:16

Today, May 20, the President Volodymyr Zelensky summed up the results of his two years in presidency at the press conference. More than 200 journalists were accredited for the press conference, as Iryna Pobedonostseva, the head of the Information Policy Directorate of the OP,  said. This time, the bloggers were not accredited.

IMI collected and commented on Zelensky's main theses on the information and media spheres.

Deoligarchization of mass media

Volodymyr Zelensky said that a bill on deoligarchization would be issued next week which, in particular, would weaken the oligarchs' influence on mass media A special register of oligarchs will be launched in Ukraine, the head of state said.

"I think this bill will appear next week. There will be no influence on mass media, politics, officials. But if there is, then these people will appear in a special register. Then this business will lose part of its assets abroad, the price of these assets will be reduced not due to sanctions of Ukraine, but due to the appearance in the law of the concept of "oligarch", - said Zelensky.

The president's team claimed to proceed with deoligarchization of the media landscape two years ago. On April 15, Volodymyr Zelensky proposed to the National Security and Defense Council and the Antimonopoly Committee to draft a bill on the status of oligarchs. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in an interview that the bill would be based on the US antitrust law. It is unclear exactly how the oligarchs' influence on mass media will be regulated. 

The Ukrainian law in force already prohibits the interference of any TV channel owners in the activities of mass media. In particular, Article 57 of the Law of Ukraine “On Television and Radio Broadcasting” stipulates that the owner of a television and radio organization has no right to interfere with the creative activity of the television and radio organization in any other way than by amending the editorial charter of the television and radio organization. The influence of owners on editorial policy could be put in place through strengthening the mechanisms of influence of the National Council, and most important by introducing a new procedure for electing members of the National Council, which would ensure an independence and competence of media regulator. Another way is to develop antitrust legislation related to the mass media market, defining the concept of this market. And first of all, it should concern not only the responsibility of the oligarchs, but all media owners in a whole. Among others, we can mention Serhiy Kivalov in Odessa or Igor Guzhva in Vienna. They hardly could be qualified as oligarchs, but their mass media editions could hardly been named independent ones from its owner's influence trying to control the content. 

As of May 20, the bill has not yet been registered in the Verkhovna Rada.

Sheremet's case

Zelensky said he would have "sharp words“ with the Interior Minister Arsen Avakov , if suspected of murdering journalist Pavel Sheremet had been arrested unlawfully. "I would not like to comment much on this, I do not interfere in the activities of law enforcement agencies and the court. But I will say frankly: I know in details what is on, and I do care if these people were illegally placed behind bars. There is no 100% proof that they are guilty or not guilty, ”the head of state said. When asked by a Channel 5 journalist about Avakov's responsibility, the president said: “This is a difficult question. If they are convicted illegally, I will have sharp words with the circumstances? No, he can’t". 

Volodymyr Zelenskyi also said he was unaware of who the murderers of Pavel Sheremet were. "I do not know who the killer is. Believe me, if I had known, I would have done anything, even outlawed, to arrest these people, " as Volodymyr Zelensky said.

A year ago, when asked about Sheremet's case, Zelensky said that Avakov was a "powerful minister" and should "bring the case to an end" and that the case itself was "complex and controversial." This year, Zelensky's remarks about Avakov and Sheremet's case have become much sharper. He said for the first time that he "did not have 100% evidence" of the detainees' guilt, and even threatened Avakov's resignation. In addition, a year ago at the press conference, Zelensky said that the investigation was not in his competence. This time he gave a more emotional assessment and in fact took more responsibility in the case of Sheremet. 

Such sharp public statements by the president may indicate that Avakov is losing his influence, while opponents of the minister in the President's Office built up one’s influence on him. 

Dispute with a representative of Akhmetov's channel "Ukraina 24"

The president accused the journalist working for the TV channel “Ukraina 24” controlled by oligarch Rinat Akhmetov  of manipulating the facts . “Tax increase. You keeps on with this theme. I know it was spoken about on the air. I believe that you, in person, are manipulating the facts when you say 'tax increase' is not serving for Ukrainians and not for society," Zelensky told journalist for “Ukraina 24” TV channel. 

It is of interest to note that, according to IMI monitoring, the media belonging to Akhmetov's pool cover Zelensky in a favouring way and avoid criticizing him personally. Such criticism seems rather occasional, tied to the identity of a particular presenter and to a particular bill. It is difficult to regard it as a critique of the content of "Ukraina 24" in general, given the editorial policy of this TV channel. 

On the influence of Kolomoisky and Medvedchuk

Zelensky said that businessman Igor Kolomoisky and MP from the OPFL Viktor Medvedchuk no longer have the influence they had before . "We understand the situation with Medvedchuk now, as well as the situation with Kolomoisky. We understand perfectly well: they no longer have the influence that they had," Zelensky said. In addition, the president said that the draft law on de-oligarchization will prohibit officials, including the president, from meeting with large businessmen. At the same time, he noted that if there is such a need, then such a meeting should be held publicly, and a report should be issued on its results.

The influence of Kolomoisky and Medvedchuk on the media sphere is still significant. Despite the sanctions, the audience of Medvedchuk's media resources still numbers millions, according to SimilarWeb. Kolomoisky also influences the editorial policy of his own media resources, which are among the 10 most popular in Ukraine.


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