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Ukrainian journalists complain about censorship over the written instructions to report only about authorities

11.11.2011, 08:25
The “Temnyk”, the anonymous directives which inform news editors and producers what political events to cover and what to avoid, have returned to Ukraine. Employees of the Donetsk Regional State Television / Radio Company (DRSTRC), who wished to remain anonymous, informed the correspondent of ZN.UA about this issue.
According to the state media outlet employees, the directives regarding coverage of major events appeared in the editorial offices of all media outlets affiliated with the Regional TRC in late May (products of regional TRC are 27th channel, the Leading radio station and "Center" radio station, which broadcasting in the open air).
DRSTRC employees complain that the company’s managers are very reluctant to provide equipment, transport and air time for reporting about the events that are not among those listed in the directive. "We eventually highlighted the cholera outbreak in Mariupol (Donetsk region), without actually going to the area. The company management said they had no money for petrol. Thanks to our colleagues who gave us "a picture" from the area we managed to report on it"- a DRSTRC employee told the ZN.UA correspondent.
DRSTRC manager Tetyana Vents told IMI that the company is publicly owned as it is funded by the state. Therefore, they act and work within a clearly stated thematic plan.
 "We must cover government activities. We strictly adhere to this because we are the state DRTRC" - Tetyana Vents’ explained. According to her, the company also covers activities of cultural, educational and social life of the region. As such, she considered the journalists' statements to be incomprehensible.
According to IMI lawyer Roman Golovenko, the outdated Law “On the Procedures for Coverage of Activities of Entities of State Power and Local Self-Government in Ukraine by the Mass Media” allowed authorities to impose the topics that were to be covered. But after the adoption of the Law “On Broadcasting” in 2006 it was determined that owners of media outlets can influence editorial policy, but only by consolidating the relevant provisions in the editorial statute of the TRC.
"Public authorities are funded by taxpayers, so they can but have their own interest, other than the public interest. Therefore, SRTRC should cover socially important topics, rather than just activities of the authorities, and especially its routine aspects. And they should be free to criticize the authorities if they do not act according to the public interest, because the budget for the state-owned media also comes from the country's citizens," the IMI's lawyer said.
 In the years 1998-2004 the Kuchma Presidential Administration issues the so-called "Temnyk" directives, containing a list of topics that should be covered by public and private media outlets. This was one of the main means of censorship under Kuchma's presidency.

20.06.2011, ІМІ
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