Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Depardieu launches "Proud to be Russian" watch range

Read more

DEBATE

SPECIAL: US and Cuba Normalise Relations

Read more

ENCORE!

Forget Harry Potter, Jeff Kinney's 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' sells millions

Read more

FOCUS

Child migrants: no parents, no passports

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Thousands flee Libya and Nigeria to seek refuge in Niger

Read more

INSIDE THE AMERICAS

Sony Pictures reels from cyber-attack

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

"Todos somos Americanos"

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Cuba-USA: 'A roll of the dice'

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

The 'Caribbean Wall' is starting to crumble

Read more

Our Focus programme brings you exclusive reports from around the world. From Monday to Friday at 7.45 am Paris time.

FOCUS

FOCUS

Latest update : 2010-10-18

Press freedom under threat?

The ten year anniversary of the murder of Ukrainian investigative journalist Georgiy Gongadze comes as the country is hit by a climate of growing concern about press freedom.

"Jail Kuchma!" "Jail Litvin!" chanted demonstrators outside the Presidential administration in Kiev on Thursday evening. They were referring to former president Leonid Kuchma and current parliament speaker Volodymyr Litvin. Both are widely believed to have had a hand in Georgiy Gongadze's murder ten years ago.

Yet the prosecutor's office just published a report laying the blame solely on the former interior minister, Yuriy Kravchenko... who died in 2005. A little too convenient, said those who'd gathered to commemorate Gongadze's death.

Fears are running high in Ukraine that the bad old days are returning for media freedom. Those who oppose Viktor Yanukovych are extremely suspicious of his intentions. And the disappearance and presumed murder, in August, of another journalist, Vasyl Klymentyev, has drawn international attention.

In fact, the Klymentyev case is rather different. Whereas Gongadze had founded a major independent news website, Ukrainska Pravda, Klymentyev's Novy Stil was a low-circulation local publication, investigating corruption cases in Kharkiv. There's no suggestion the national authorities are involved. But so far, their failure to successfully investigate the crime is being seen as a bad sign.

Klymentyev's mobile phone was allegedly found at a reservoir near the eastern Ukrainian city, but Novy Stil's deputy editor Petro Matviienko is convinced that's a red herring. "They killed him in Kharkiv, and then brought not even the phone here, just the SIM card, and put it in another phone," he says.

At the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, an NGO, Andriy Kristenko retains some optimism: "It could yet be that the national authorities will decide to use this case to show that they are tough on local authorities' abuses." But the broader picture, he says, is a dark one: "This government does not care about press freedom. Here, we are dealing with more serious human rights abuses - with torture cases. I wouldn't be surprised if, in two years time, I'd face jail for giving this kind of interview."

It's common to hear such dramatic views among opponents of Viktor Yanukovych. International observers have also expressed concern, albeit more moderately: Reporters Without Borders titled its report "Temptation to Control".

Ukraine's print media remain broadly free. But most Ukrainians get their news from television. Since Yanukovych came to power, TV journalists have reported increasing pressure from their management not to criticise the government. Three employees of the state channel UT-1 resigned in early September, citing editorial constraints. The channel's management said they really left due to low pay.

Low pay doesn't seem to be an issue for the channel's deputy director, Walid Harfouche, judging by the artworks and antiques in his plush office. Harfouche famously said that the state channel's role is to report on positive things the government is doing. He gladly repeated as much to France 24, but insisted on the second part of the statment: "and leave the criticism to the private channels".

Yet Ukraine's largest private channels are controlled by four oligarchs close to Yanukovych. "Ukraine is a young country", Harfouche explained by way of an excuse, noting with a broad grin that powerful business-people with political connections control media groups in France and other Western countries, too.

The owner of Ukraine's largest media group, Inter, Valeriy Khoroshkovsky, could hardly fit that description better. He is not only head of the secret services, the SBU, but also sits on the country's High Council of Justice. He flatly denies meddling in his channels' affairs. But Inter's court action against independent channels TVi and Channel 5 rather weakens his claim to support press freedom. Khoroshkovsky's group said the channels had obtained broadcast licenses illegally, and - perhaps helped by its owner's judicial connections - had those frequencies removed.

By Gulliver CRAGG

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2014-12-18 Italy

Child migrants: no parents, no passports

Since January 2014 more than 165 000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean on treacherous vessels, to reach Europe, many fleeing war and persecution. An increasing number of...

Read more

2014-12-17 Central African Republic

Hunt for Joseph Kony and LRA militants continues

The Lord's Resistance Army is a rebel group infamous for its brutality. Driven out of Uganda nearly a decade ago, LRA militants are now scattered across the Democratic Republic...

Read more

2014-12-16 Denmark

Video: Denmark ‘rehabilitates’ returning jihadists

Denmark has taken a different approach to young Muslims returning to the country after waging jihad abroad. FRANCE 24's Malcolm Brabant reports.

Read more

2014-12-15 Japan

Is the fuel cell the future of the car industry?

In Japan, the world's first mass market fuel cell car has gone on sale. Toyota's Mirai, or "Future", recharges in less than five minutes, its electricity supply is produced on...

Read more

2014-12-12 France

Video: Proposed French law stops short of euthanasia

In the wake of two senior lawmakers submitting a report Friday that French President François Hollande said would be the basis of new legislation to help the terminally ill die...

Read more