Reported by Justin Tomczyk, USUF Intern
|Leading the discussion at USUF’s Media Roundtable event are (from left to right): Iuliia Iarmolenko, Voice of America correspondent and producer of special reports for ICTV; Adrian Karmazyn, USUF Special Advisor for Strategic Communications and Development and former Ukrainian Branch Chief of VOA; Daria Dieguts, Washington correspondent, Ukraina TV; and, Natalka Pisnia, Washington correspondent, 1+1 TV …. Photo by Justin Tomczyk
Washington, DC, April 18 – The role of media in a democracy is often underestimated. It’s difficult to have a system of governance built around the will of the majority without citizens having reliable sources of information. Today we can see that freedom of the press is directly correlated with successful democratic rule. That is why the role of media in post-Maidan Ukraine is of utmost importance. The ability to guarantee freedom of the press and information is one of the key components of Ukraine’s democratization process. Roundtable discussions were held at both the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation (USUF) on Tuesday, April 12th regarding the media in Ukraine.
NED’s roundtable – which was conducted in a “without attribution” format – focused on ownership of Ukraine’s major media outlets. Whoever owns the news has the ability to distort and reshape public perceptions of reality. Thanks to a new Ukrainian law on transparency of media ownership it has been officially revealed that Ukraine’s national television networks remain under the control of a handful of oligarchs. The control of Ukrainian media by a select few extends to online news sources as well. This is a particularly disconcerting development as the Internet has been considered by many to be a refuge for independent sources of information.
The U.S.-Ukraine Foundation’s roundtable discussion featured Washington correspondents who produce stories for some of Ukraine’s biggest television networks: Natalka Pisnia
from 1+1, Daria Dieguts
of Ukraina TV and Iuliia Iarmolenko
of Voice of America, which partners with ICTV. Topics ranged from their coverage of the U.S. election to the cultural differences between Ukrainians and Americans.
The wide-ranging discussion covered confusion over the primary process, U.S. policy toward Ukraine, the Ukrainian community in Miami, and whether or not Americans can “buy” a driver’s license (i.e., can you obtain one by paying a bribe). Nevertheless, one thing was clear: historically, the American media presence in Ukraine has been very limited (and vice-versa). While the U.S.-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty were for decades the de facto, nearly exclusive Washington and foreign bureaus for Ukraine’s media market (where they typically partnered with all-news stations) that situation is changing. Now 1+1, Ukraina TV and ICTV, commercial broadcasting giants, are also regularly airing stories about American life, produced by Ukrainian, Washington-based correspondents.
||Roundtable moderator Adrian Karmazyn stands with Iuliia Iarmolenko, Daria Dieguts
and Natalka Pisnia.
While Ukraine’s media situation is far from perfect we’re beginning to see a steady improvement. The usage of social media and personal blogs as organizational tools during the early stages of the Maidan demonstrated the power of peer-sourced information. Despite the fact that much of Ukraine’s media remains under oligarch control, there is now more openness in TV coverage as compared to life under ousted President Yanukovych. (including the information about off-shore accounts recently found in the “Panama Papers”). Still, Russian media presence in Ukraine remains a concern.
As was also discussed at the USUF roundtable, the Ukrainian diaspora in the United States has played a large role in engaging both Ukrainians and Americans on the political developments in both countries. Through a mutual media presence, the United States and Ukraine will be able to better understand each other’s culture and society. Hopefully, such dialogue will lay the foundation for a prosperous future relationship between both countries