Are Ukrainian journalists safe in the country? What is the situation with freedom of speech? Journalists of “Donetsk Dialogue”, a program on Donbas Public TV, tried to find out the opinion of their colleagues in the region.
Oleksandr Romanko had had more than 200 publications before he entered the faculty of journalism. He started publishing his works at the age of 17. Since that time journalism has been his way of life, not only his profession.
“I started my carrier when I was a teen in Krasnoarmiysk district. It was “The Mayak” (“The Lighthouse”), a district newspaper. Then the family moved to Slovyansk. By the time I finished school, I had had more than 200 publications though it is required to have 5 if you want to be a student of the faculty of journalism. That is why I was offered a permanent job when I was 17, in 1991. And since that time I have worked as a journalist”, Roman recalls.
The journalists were the first to go through the real check of their professionalism during the period of Slovyansk occupation.
«In extreme conditions, a lot of people behave not as journalists, but as humans, you behave the way which is typical of you in real life. I was surprised by the reckless behaviour of people. They are herded to a slaughter house, and they are dancing and they are happy. Johann Fichte once said that the bull's freedom was a beast that was taken to a slaughter house and it knows that. It was like that in Slovyansk”, says Oleksandr Romanko.
He thinks that it was MM that had played a negative role even before the events started in the east of Ukraine.
“Journalism cannot be taken out of society; it is an element of this society. Journalism reflects the society. As you understand, if our society has been going to “DPR” and “LPR” for 25 years, it does not deserve any praise, and the journalism either. Journalists bear responsibility”, says Oleksandr.
Journalists have different opinions in respect to the issue whether freedom of speech which is much spoken about exists, and who influences the content.
“It would be more correct if the press depended on its readers. It depends on the readers as it is a commercial product. Because of our soviet past, we perceive press as ideological weapon. It is completely wrong. Press should be sold as any other product, as boots or bread. For that, the product should be of high quality and adjusted to readers. These are fundamental things”, says Svitlana Vyunichenko, deputy editor-in-chief of “The TV Plus” newspaper. She is an experienced journalist and she is convinced that there are no MM which are absolutely free, at least, in Ukraine.
“I have been trying to answer this question for a long time. Independent press is a myth which does not exist in the world. In some developed countries it is independent from the state. In our country it does not exist because it cannot exist. Journalists accept that; otherwise they will not be able to work in this field. It is good when you share your views with the newspaper you work for. Then it is easier for you to live”, says Svitlana Vyunichenko
She thinks that it is especially difficult for regional journalists to stand the pressure.
“Regional press has specific features. They make us not to undertake global investigations. I think I wouldn't be able to complete the investigation at this level. I don't know whether I will be punished should I get into the depth” says Svitlana Vyunichenko.
There are a lot of strangers in journalism today, as Oleksandr believes. At present it is difficult to say whether it is good or bad.
“Any profession requires learning and developing skills. Journalism is quite a democratic profession – if one is able to write, one may work without formal education. Still it is required to take some professional course, to talk to colleagues, to visit different towns. Even if you are just a reporter and you just present the facts, you should remember that even the word order in your sentence expresses your attitude to the fact. Today we should reach maximum transparency. Separatists and professionals may say what they want. In any case, when we see the whole picture, the common sense starts working”, Oleksandr Romanko explains.
Freedom of speech is fixed in a number of international and Ukrainian documents. Despite that, the situation with the freedom of speech leaves much to be desired. In the world rating of the freedom of speech compiled by international organization “Reporters without Borders” in 2014, Ukraine takes 17 place with neighbouring Columbia, Afghanistan, Honduras, and Guatemala.
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