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A Ukrainian Journalist is Sacked
In the second largest Ukrainian city of Kharkov a
journalist is sacked as it is officially stated for pessimism and criticism
towards the new Ukrainian Constitution Draft.
Vladimir Sobolevsky worked
for the state-owned National TV Kharkov branch. He interviewed a notable
Ukrainian economist A. Gugel who took part in the work over the new Constitution
Draft. In the aired program Gugel "expressed some pessimistic, unfounded remarks
concerning the prepared Ukrainian Constitution Draft and the relationship
between the Parliament and President of Ukraine; he did not offered any
proposition as to the way out of the present situation in Ukraine. The
correspondent did not comment on these remarks, thus expressing his agreement
with them". This is exact wording of the official order dismissing Sobolevsky
from his work. The order is signed by A. Yemets, the director general of the
National TV Kharkov regional branch ("state-owned" TV as it is literally
stressed in the exact name of the TV company).
The Local Trade Union
Branch Committee whose agreement to the dismissal is still required by the
Ukrainian Law (a rudiment of the Soviet system, as well as the Ukrainian Trade
Union itself, an "official" one as it is usually addressed to) voting 5 to 1
supported the director's decision to sack Sobolevsky. As one of the members of
the Local Trade Union Committee, TV engineer A.Varets instructively said, "the
State TV must coincide with the State interests and State TV journalists must
have the State's point of view".
Director Yemets who was present at the
Committee's sitting stressed that Sobolevsky was dismissed because the program
prepared by him "did not correspond to the broadcasting policy of the Regional
State TV company".
Ukraine is suffocating with the severe economic
crisis. The enterprises have nearly completely stopped. The all mighty and ever
expanding in number bureaucracy makes any investment into Ukrainian economy
absolutely ineffective. The permanent strikes of workers who are not getting
their wages for months make all those investment even dangerous. The prices are
unexplainably spiralling up and have already surpassed in some cases the world
level. Corruption has reached the tremendous scopes.
In these conditions
the President's position is rather unstable. Having been heralded as the
president-reformer in 1994 Kuchma has practically done nothing to reform the
Ukrainian economy mainly because he did not manage to withstand the bureaucratic
resistance. It is now widely understood that the loudly made promise to close up
the Chernobyl atomic power station cannot be kept because of the energy crisis
in Ukraine. It seems that the only possible getaway left for Kuchma is by all
means to immediately adopt the new allegedly democratic Constitution which will
allow him to retain the image of the reformer and to go on sucking money from
the Western countries to be drowned in the immeasurable Ukrainian bureaucratic
That is why all the officials in the cities and regions of
Ukraine are working hard to produce the picture of universal approval of the
Constitution Draft as it was in 1977 when the last Soviet Constitution was
adopted during the communist regime. This excludes any critical remarks as to
The Kharkov journalist is considered to be "the first victim
of the new Ukrainian Constitution".
While the American non-profit
institution, the Freedom House solemnly awarded President Leonid Kuchma of
Ukraine the "Freedom Award" as it was put to "recognise President Kuchma's
leadership in promoting a democratic and independent Ukraine", the former Soviet
dissident and Radio Liberty observer Vladimir Malinkovich, who returned to
Ukraine after years of exile, thinks that Kuchma received that Award for
anything but democratic achievements.
Malinkovich says that the
Sobolevsky's incident clearly demonstrates that in Ukraine the political
censorship is already introduced, that prosecutions against journalists on
political ground are going on in Ukraine, and what is the most important, this
case shows that the new Ukrainian Constitution Draft discussion cannot be
regarded as free.
This is not the first example of attacks against the
press in Ukraine. The local bureaucracy believes that the so called State's
point of view and the State's interests coincide with their own ones. They are
sure dissidents should be barred on this ground from the State owned TV, radio
and newspapers. They consider the Freedom of Speech to be "a very expensive and
unnecessary toy" for Ukrainians.
Last year the City Council owned TV
company director in Donetsk Gennady Kondaurov prohibited to air the very popular
TV programme "Vybor" ("Choice"). As Kondaurov explained in the local media, "the
programme considerably deviated from the State official point of view". This
decision provoked a surge of indignation among the residents of Donbass, the
Ukrainian major industrial area. According to the ITAR-TASS news agency report
of June 27, 1995, there was picketing of the Donetsk City Hall and the
authorities "rushed to call police units which dispersed the picketers". The
initiators were detained. The programme was never renewed.
this year Ukrainian mass media were shocked at the closure of the very popular
programme "Pislyamova" ("Afterward") by the National State-owned TV leadership
in the capital Kiev. It is strongly believed there are political motives behind
In Ukraine it is quite a common thing for an
editor-in-chief to get an official letter of the sort which is at the author's
disposal: "Since the situation requires it, I ask you to present the information
(name, age, ethnicity, home address, telephone numbers etc.) and the description
of character of your newspaper correspondent..." (The letter is signed by the
Donetsk City Criminal Police head).
Like it was in 1970 in the United
States when the "New York Times" reporter Earl Coldwell was ordered to reveal to
a federal grand jury his sources in the Black Panther organisation that
threatened his independence as a newsgatherer, and American journalists created
the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Ukrainian journalists in
Kharkov and Donetsk decided to follow their American colleagues' example and to
create the Ukrainian Centre for the Freedom of Speech to deal with above
Maybe, the Civil Liberties are very expensive at the
moment for Ukraine but it is the only way to cope with the national bureaucracy.