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Ukrainian media landscape should include objective criticism, says IMI executive Oksana Romaniuk

10.01.2024, 17:49
Photo by Serhiy Stetsenko / Radio Liberty
Photo by Serhiy Stetsenko / Radio Liberty

The Ukrainian information landscape should include investigative journalism and objective criticism, but the focus should be on the facts, not on spreading rumors, and the criticism should target specific decisions, not the personalities of officials.

The director of the Institute of Mass Information (IMI) Oksana Romaniuk said this at an online meeting with the "Detector Media" community.

Romaniuk noted that Ukrainian media often pick up the criticism that first appears in international media, while adding that criticising the authorities and the government is normal and the absence of such criticism and self-censorship on the journalists' part will not make Ukrainian society any stronger.

"The international media, not Ukrainian, are often the first to write criticism, which later makes its way into our Ukrainian information space. But this bevause we fear for our safety, and we feel that criticism makes us vulnerable. This makes us defensive, makes us want to build a wall, so to speak. But in reality, this will not make us any stronger, so it is important that we do have a lot of investigations and criticism, which helps us move forward," said the media expert.

She also stressed that the wartime restrictions on information, regulated by the UAF Commander-in-Chief's Decree No. 73, do not apply to issues of the budget, reconstruction of Ukraine, community life, etc.

"The situation is such that the work of the media is starting to be regulated beyond the limits of military policies. For example, a lot of people in Odesa walk around with cell phones, but journalists are forbidden to film downtown – this is preclusion to professional reporting, which contradicts both the Decree No. 73 and the Constitution. If we at the IMI did not record such obstacles before, so, I think, we will start recording them in 2024," said Oksana Romaniuk.

According to the IMI executive, there has been a surge in journalists being denied access to information during the full-scale war. In some oblasts, journalists are denied answers to questions on issues such as budget expenditures or officials' salaries, under the pretext of martial law.

"They argue that the papers will list the officials' personal data or that journalists cannot attend meetings because the publicity may supposedly lead to a rocket strike. Such restrictions must be fought, and I strongly recommend that editorial teams and journalists learn their rights clearly, learn what is allowed under martial law and what is indeed prohibited. If we do not defend our interests now, the media will be unable to develop in the future. To be honest, now the media mainly exist thanks to grant support, but even such funding is not guaranteed if the media do not defend their existence and do not act as the media," Oksana Romaniuk added.

The Institute of Mass Information has submitted the basic provisions regulating the accreditation-related cooperation between journalists and the military to the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.

According to Romaniuk, the documents regulating the work of the media – Appendices 3 and 4 to the UAF Commander-in-Chief's Decree No. 73 – do not align with the current law. The IMI developed amendments to Appendices 3 and 4 of Order No. 73 and practical advice developed together with war correspondents and submitted them to the Ministry of Defense as well.

The Institute of Mass Information also operates a legal assistance hotline where media workers can report violations of their rights and receive advice:

The Institute of Mass Information (IMI) is a public media organization that has been operating since 1995. The IMI defends the rights of journalists, analyzes the media field and covers media-related events, fights propaganda and disinformation and has been providing media outlets with safety gear for trips to the combat zone since the start of the Russo–Ukrainian war in 2014.

The IMI carries out Ukraine's only freedom of speech monitoring and keeps a list of high quality and sustainable online media outlets, documents Russia's crimes against the media committed in the course of the war on Ukraine. The IMI has representatives in 20 oblasts of Ukraine and a network of "Mediabaza" hubs to provide journalists with continuous support. The IMI's partners include Reporters Without Borders and Freedom House; the organization is a member of the International Organization for the Protection of Freedom of Expression (IFEX).

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