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Zaporizhzhia journalists complain that the new regional head is avoiding them

06.03.2023, 16:15

Zaporizhzhia journalists complain that the new head of the Zaporizhia Oblast State Administration and of the Oblast Military Administration, Yuriy Malashko, who has been assigned this position on February 9, has never met with them and avoids giving any comments about events in the city to local mass media.

Journalists of several regional media and correspondents of some national media spoke to the IMI representative in Zaporizhzhia oblast about this.

Alyona Natalukha, editor-in-chief of the Suspilne Zaporizhzhia news bureau, says that ever since being appointed, Yury Malashko has not found enough time for a press conference that would give journalists a chance to introduce the head of the military administration to the public.

"The public still does not know who Yuriy Malashko is, because there is little open source information about him. He refuses to communicate at joint outings and mass events. Journalists do not receive up-to-date information about shelling attacks on the city and the oblast and thus are unable to inform the locals. Suspilne has formally invited Yuri Malashka for an interview multiple times. The discussion is supposed to be the situation on the battlefield, the prospects for de-occupation, the regional budget and other socially important topics. We still have no response," she said.

Alyona Natalukha noted that since the March 2 attack on a residential building in downtown Zaporizhzhia, the OMA head has been avoiding local journalists.

"What happened on March 2 was a shock. The shelling destroyed a residential building in Zaporizhzhia, burying people under the rubble. Mr. Malashko has not visited the site of the incident at night and did not talk to journalists about it. But he is the source of information about the injured, the dead, the evacuation, etc. When journalists turned to the press office to get an official comment, we were denied," she said.

"Ukrinform" correspondent Olha Zvonaryova confirms the communication crisis, too. According to her, the situation with the March 2 shelling of a residential building in Zaporizhzhia showed a very serious problem regarding communication with the military administration.

"The attack happened around 1:30 am on March 2. The first information about the impact, the first photo from the site of the incident, appeared on the ZOVA's Telegram channel within an hour. To be honest, I thought that we would finally see timely reporting from the authorities. But no. The OVA head visited the site of the incident in such a way that neither he nor any of the journalists saw or recognized him. Data about the victims and the situation at the site was quickly provided by the State Emergency Service and the police. And then the mess started: the acting city mayor Anatoliy Kurtev appeared on the national telethon in the morning, all structures started mentioning different figures regarding the number of dead, injured, and missing persons. The Mayor's office said that the city has issues with the resettlement of people affected by the Russian aggression, and right at that time, the OVA gathered for a prayer. We have not received any 'live' comments from the authorities. None. And this despite the fact that the enemy hit a multi-story building, destroying it completely, and that is a thing that we should be shouting about not just to the whole country, but to the whole world," said Olha Zvonaryova. website correspondent Elmira Shagabuddinova also pointed out the crisis in communication between the authorities and the media.

"The latest story with the residential building being hit was revealing: apart from the State Emergency Service and the police, the authorities made no official comment to local journalists. What's more, the law enforcers, the city council, and the OVA could not provide a single figure regarding the injured persons. As a result, there is no information on what kind of assistance the families of the dead and the affected need, in what condition the damaged multi-story building is, where the injured persons are being resettled to, and what is the aid mechanism," the journalist said.

"SLM Novyny" (STB, ICTV) correspondent, Andriy Pochtev, specified that othing really changed since Oleksandr Starukh, during whose office the government's communication with the mass media hit the lowest possible point, was replaced by a new OVA head.

"It would not be an exaggeration to say that the majority of Zaporizhzhia journalists barely recognize Yury Malashko on the street, because they have only seen his photos at best. In almost a month since his appointment, the ZOVA head apparently has given no comments to local correspondents. Although there have been grounds for doing so. A press conference where the official would at least voice his principles and his vision of life and defense of the partially occupied oblast, is not yet in sight in the foreseeable future. It is also unclear who is his press secretary who would have the authority to provide comments on the OVA's behalf and coordinate the OVA's work with media representatives," the journalist explained.

According to "Pershyi Zaporizkyi" editor Andriy Vavilov, as of 18:00 on March 2, there has only been one relevant post about the rocket attack on a residential building in Zaporizhzhia on the Zaporizhzhia OMA website – an interview with the head of the administration, Yuriy Malashka, on the "United News" telethon. There are only two substantive posts on Telegram and on Facebook (1, 2) and a repost of the address by the head of state.

On March 3, information about the missile attack, complete with detailed data on the dead and affected appeared on the ZOMA website in a summary of Russian attacks on cities and towns of Zaporizhzhia oblast.

On March 3, the IMI asked ZOMA representatives to comment on the situation with the oblast head's communication with regional mass media. During the phone conversation, ZOMA representative Margarita Nikonova asked the IMI to file an official request for comment. IMI has sent its questions to the ZOMA and another copy to Vladyslav Moroko, head of the culture and information policy department at the ZOMA.

The head of the department, Vladyslav Moroko, told the IMI representative that he would comment on the situation after communicating with the head of the OMA.

We remind that in November 2022, the editors of five Zaporizhia media appealed to the Zaporizhia City Council with a demand to resume the live streams of City Council sessions.

In 2021, Zaporizhzhia journalists issued an open address to the central authorities with a request to intervene in the situation around journalists being systematically denied access to Zaporizhzhia City Council sessions and meetings of permanent deputy commissions.

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