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Adoption of Civil Society Leads to Ukrainian Reform

(Washington, DC--January 28, 2005) A panel of four Ukrainian radio journalists told a recent RFE/RL audience in Washington that the refusal of many Ukrainian journalists to buckle to government pressure and lie to listeners was a key factor ensuring the victory of pro-Yushchenko forces during the recent Orange Revolution. This journalistic assertion of independence was a "mirror image" of the civil society that was created during the crisis.

Prior to the election campaign, the media was required to follow strict government guidelines in its reporting, said Olesya Sadova, Program Director of Nezalezhnist Radio in Lviv. These guidelines guaranteed favorable coverage for Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. Sadova said that these restrictions caused an information blockade in Eastern Ukraine, which had little media access to independent sources of information.

Television contributed to challenger Victor Yushchenko's victory, said Sadova. She said that Ukraine's "cable" Channel 5 reported "complete and honest" stories about the campaigns of both candidates. Every region of Ukraine, according to Sadova, showed Channel 5 during the Orange Revolution--either live or on distributed CDs, despite the fact that access to that station was prohibited in Eastern Ukraine.

The few journalists who relinquished their fears of reporting the truth produced optimism among the Ukrainian population, according to Kyrylo Bulkin, Chief Editor of NART Radio in Kyiv. He said that the actions of a few journalists and the Ukrainian people helped save its independence and democracy, overturning decades of government corruption and repression.

According to Bulkin, the Ukrainian government underestimated the power of the Internet. The Internet, according to Bulkin, not only provided information, it allowed Ukrainians to organize resistance to government efforts to falsify the election results. Internet stories were reproduced in newspapers and were widely read. He said the Internet was especially important in western Ukraine, an area where more people, particularly youth had access to the Internet.

Stanislav Zaychenko, the Director of Radio Three in Zaporozhiya said that, although Yushchenko currently enjoys the support of approximately one-half to two-thirds of the population, he personally remains concerned about two things: that the government will once again begin to give orders to journalists; and the possibility that the current economic situation may still allow journalists to be bought.

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