Freedom of speech in Ukraine: the country moves down in the world ratings

Author : 112.UA 112.UA

Source : 112 Ukraine

Over the past 2.5 years Ukraine has moved up and down in various rankings of press freedom, and also it was recognized as one of the most dangerous countries for journalism
17:21, 2 June 2016

During the last 2.5 years Ukrainian journalism has passed through numerous difficulties: from the escape of the main newsmaker Viktor Yanukovych up to the war. Unfortunately, the country cannot not be proud of its independent media and freedom of speech. All this time, Ukraine was like on a see-saw: up and down. 2013 was the beginning of the Revolution of Dignity, which changed the work of journalists, and immersed them in a very unusual working conditions. They worked under the gun of snipers hiding behind burning barricades on the Maidan, and masked from the attacks of militants in the Donbas.

Freedom of speech

In 2014, a non-governmental organization Freedom House placed Ukraine to the countries with not free media, although since 2010 the country belonged to the "partly free" category, and 4 years before that Ukraine was in the list of "free."

"Reporters without Borders" highlight the deterioration of the situation in Ukraine. According to the Index of freedom of press, the country is losing the ground rapidly. In 2012, we were at 116th place, in 2013, the country lost 10 positions and is on the 126th place - between Algeria and Honduras. A year later, Ukraine has lowered by one position - 127th place, and in 2015, two more - 129th. In total, the rating of "Reporters without borders" covers 180 countries. Finland is in the first place, North Korea and Eritrea take the last position.

Related: EU urges Ukraine to investigate website leak of journalists' personal data

At the beginning of 2016, the international non-governmental organizations have revised their views on Ukraine and, in particular, on the media. Freedom House notes that compared to the 2014, the situation has improved, but journalists continue to face obstacles in carrying out their work. They are subject to threats and attacks, they are often denied access to the necessary information.

This opinion is shared by "Reporters without Borders." In their updated ranking Ukraine ranked 107th place, climbing 22 places up.

Worst of the Worst

Having occupied Crimea, Russia extended to local media its harsh policies towards its own journalists. Numerous institutions urge Russia to stop pressure against journalists, but it does not pay attention and the situation is more and more critical. A report by Amnesty International 2014/15 said that Russia violates the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association in Crimea. Council of Europe condemned Russia’s actions. They have repeatedly called on the Russian Federation to stop the persecution, and even sent the mission, but it did not affect Russian policy towards Crimean media.

In 2016, Freedom House has devoted special attention to the occupied Crimea. Occupied peninsula was listed together with North Korea, they belong to the top five areas with the most non-free media.

Related: Federal Security Service calls family of Crimean journalist in for questioning

Recently, the European Federation of Journalists, on the initiative of the Independent Media Professional Union of Ukraine and the National Union of Journalists issued a statement about the new level of repression against journalists in Crimea.

Violence against journalists

"There is only one thing more threatening freedom of speech than harassment, attacks and murders of media workers: this is when the authorities allow persecution, assault and murder." These words of the former OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Miklos Haraszti, vividly describes the situation with the attacks against journalists. After the murder of Georgy Gongadze safety of media workers has become a hot topic. Earlier the journalists were targeted because of their investigations, in early 2014, the new risks appeared. Representatives of Ukrainian and foreign mass media were among the first to hit on Maidan, and the victims of Donbas war. For example, in Ukraine in 2012 80 journalists were attacked, and in 2013 - already 120. In late 2013, Ukraine became one of the worst places in Europe for representatives of the media.

Press Emblem Campaign (PEC)

The sad trend continued: only since the beginning of 2014 five journalists were killed in the country, including the correspondent of the newspaper "Vesti" Vyacheslav Veremey, Italian photographer Andrea Rokkelli and his assistant Andriy Mironov, Russian journalists Kornelyuk Igor and Anton Voloshin. According to "Reporters without Borders," in 2014 the number of deaths amounted to 66 people, 119 were kidnapped worldwide. It would seem that the number of those killed has decreased by 7%, however, the organization pointed out that violence against journalists is becoming increasingly sophisticated.

At this time, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is also sounding the alarm. The committee stated that they documented numerous violations of press freedom in Ukraine, including the cases of attacks, arrests and kidnappings of journalists, as well as the blocking of radio and television channels.

Press Emblem Campaign (PEC)

The Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) unveiled horrifying statistics of murders of media personnel. So, over the past 10 years 1 thousand 184 media workers have been killed.

Related: Russian-backed separatist forces publish personal info of journalists working in eastern Ukraine

In 2015, 135 journalists were killed in 33 countries, including 4 in Ukraine. Let us remember the resonant murder of journalist Oles Buzyna in April last year. Our country was between Colombia and Bangladesh in the number of those killed.

The problem of bringing the perpetrators to justice remains unsolved.

The credibility of the Ukrainian media

The level of distrust in Ukrainian media grew up just two years ago. This jump can be explained by events in the media coverage of Maidan movement. The public has repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with the information policy of some national television channels and Internet resources. In October 2014, Institute of Sociology of NAS of Ukraine reported that first time in 20 years the level of distrust in the media exceeds the level of trust.

Head of the Department of Sociology, Culture, and Mass Communication (Institute of Sociology of NAS of Ukraine) Natalia Kostenko explained that after the revolution, only 25% of Ukrainians trusted media, and 45% did not trust, whereas in 2013 the situation was as follows: confidence figures were 37% and 29% of people mistrusted.

Razumkov Center also notes the regional surge in this period. Domestic media have continued to lose confidence in the past year. It is logical, Donbas war is connected with mounting frustration. Here it is necessary to provide World Happiness Report-2016 data (ranking of happiness for 2013-2015). Ukrainians were at 123 th place (of 157 countries of the world).

This year the credibility of the media began to return. Center for Insights in Survey Research unveiled an interesting study that was conducted in 24 cities of Ukraine. One of the points was satisfaction with the work of officials and various institutions.

How do you approve the work of the national media?

1) Strongly approve
2) partly approve
3) partly do not approve
4) strongly disapprove
5) it is difficult to answer


Center for Insights in Survey Research

Salaries of Ukrainian journalists

In addition to changing the working conditions of media professionals, the crisis affected the revenues in the media sphere. It is no secret that the journalists’ labor market could be called closed. They change from edition to edition, learning about job opportunities from their friends. This, of course, does not rule out an open recruitment through the sites for job search. As a rule, employers indicate the proposed level of wages to the applicant, but it may differ from the real sum. In journalistic sphere, as well as in other areas, salary in envelopes is a usual phenomenon. Among the post-Soviet countries Ukraine can "boast" with the lowest salaries of journalists.

Related: Russian law enforcers charge Crimean Tatar journalist Lilya Budzhurova with ‘extremism’

Speaking about the salaries of Ukrainian journalists, please do not forget about the gender pay gap. In Ukrainian, as well as in the world's media, more than half of employees are women. The International Federation of Journalists state that in Ukraine women journalists receive less than their male counterparts. The difference can be more than 30%. Especially noticeable gap in the age group of 45 years.

Related: Cabinet to revise sanctions list of Russian journalists

Related: Surveillance cameras recorded attack on “Channel 7” journalists in Odesa

Despite the rather sad trend of previous years, media experts say that Ukraine has all the signs that journalism is becoming better and more responsible. These international non-governmental organizations show that the country is slowly gaining a positive position in the list of countries with free media. Another key problem is sanctions against foreign media; Ukraine says that it is an indispensable measure to combat propaganda. Let us remember “Myrotvorets” site, which published lists of Ukrainian and foreign journalists who had accreditation of the so-called "Donetsk People's Republic." Journalists, human rights organizations, as well as the EU and US authorities critically reacted to the sanctions of Ukraine’s government. Journalist Ian Bateson, whose name appears in these lists, wrote in his blog in New York Times that Ukraine should not sacrifice freedom of the press, trying to survive in the war.

Related: Journalist Shuster is forbidden to work in Ukraine: all the details

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