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...And That 'Censorship' is Back

Kyiv -- Journalists watch the inauguration of President Viktor Yanukovych on a tv screen in parliament, 25Feb2010

Kyiv -- Journalists watch the inauguration of President Viktor Yanukovych on a tv screen in parliament, 25Feb2010

Journalists at two Ukrainian television stations
say censorship is occurring again at the country's commercial TV stations,
RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

Journalists at the STB station's news program "Vikna" (Windows) claimed in a
letter published on May 7 that "systemic censorship" is taking place.
Their open letter came one day after their colleagues from the TSN news service
of Channel 1+1 -- one of the most-viewed programs in Ukraine -- claimed the
same in a similar open statement.

Both groups of journalists allege some topics are "closed" and some reports are
edited "upside down" or banned altogether since the election of Viktor
Yanukovych as president earlier this year.

The journalists said proscribed topics include "Holodomor," the Ukrainian word
for the 1930s mass famine in Ukraine instigated by Soviet leader Josef Stalin;
the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, a nationalist rebel militia that fought both the
Nazis and the Soviets during World War II; as well as any criticism of the
authorities, investigations about politicians' personal finances, and even
reports about Yanukovych's wife.

Channel 1+1 managers have denied they censor the work of their journalists.

Hanna Herman, the deputy head of the president's office (and former head of
RFE/RL's Kyiv bureau), met with TSN journalists and announced afterward that
she found no evidence of censorship.

The journalists, however, said after the meeting that Herman had misunderstood
them and was wrong in calling their complaints a corporate conflict.

Many Ukrainian observers have said the situation in the media -- especially on
TV -- has significantly changed since Yanukovych won the presidential election
and his pro-Russian Party of Regions took power earlier this year.

Viktoriya Syumar, director of the Mass Information Institute in Kyiv, said that
owners of private commercial TV stations might be introducing new editorial
policies to protect their businesses from being harassed by the new

Censorship was widespread in the Ukrainian media before the 2004 Orange
Revolution that brought President Viktor Yushchenko to power. Freedom of speech
and the mostly free media that were established during his 2005-2010 term in
office are considered one of his main achievements as president.

RFE/RL's O wire compiled this report.