Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Ukraine Unspun

Should Ukraine Get A Pass Because Russia Censors Too?

Women have their lunch as they watch Russian President Vladimir Putin on the television addressing the country's Federal Assembly on the Crimean referendum to reunify with Russia outside the peninsula's capital Simferopol.
Women have their lunch as they watch Russian President Vladimir Putin on the television addressing the country's Federal Assembly on the Crimean referendum to reunify with Russia outside the peninsula's capital Simferopol.
The Russian government is outraged about censorship -- in Ukraine.

On March 25, a Kyiv district court ordered the temporary suspension of broadcasts by four major Russian television channels. Reports from Ukraine say most major providers had responded to the court order by midnight on March 27 and the Russian broadcasts, including First Channel, RTR Planeta, Rossiya 24, and NTV Mir, are widely unavailable.

Ukraine's Council of National Security and Defense has said the broadcasts "threaten the national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine."

Volya, a major cable operator that broadcasts throughout Ukraine, announced that it would replace the banned broadcasters with three Ukrainian ones and Dozhd TV, an independent Moscow-based outlet that itself has come under threat of closure in Russia in what is widely seen as part of a broader political crackdown.

Reaction from Russian officials has been swift.

"Such a decision does not meet Ukrainian obligations in the area of human rights, in particular media freedom, in the least," said Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry's envoy for human rights, democracy and the rule of law. "And certainly, such a decision has nothing to do with the declarations of the de facto authorities in Kyiv about their intentions to respect human rights, basic freedoms, and to strengthen democracy."

Aleksei Volin, Russia's deputy minister for mass communications, told RFE/RL's Russian Service that the shutdown is both a legal and moral violation.

"First, we are dealing with completely blatant censorship, when they're not even hiding the fact that Russian TV channels are being shut off because someone doesn't like their content," he said. "Second, the main victims of this will be the Ukrainian viewers, because these Russian channels were popular enough among the audience in Ukraine that what was shown always brought large interest."

But the news has also been greeted with a heavy dose of "whataboutism." Russia, after all, appears to be accelerating its own crackdown on independent media.

In March, authorities blocked several Russian opposition websites; the chief editor of the popular independent website was fired and replaced by a Kremlin-connected editor; and Dozhd has been given an eviction notice.

In Crimea, authorities blocked major Ukrainian television channels.

And, as we've covered here, Russian media have relentlessly portrayed a Ukrainian landscape that does not mesh with reality.

Comparisons to Russia notwithstanding, the fact is that four channels that are popular among Russian-speakers have been closed off to the audiences that choose to watch them.

Earlier this month, Dunja Mijatovic, the media freedom representative for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) -- which includes both Russia and Ukraine among its 57 member nations -- rejected political arguments for shutting down Russian broadcasters.

"While I deplore any kind of state propaganda and hate speech as part of the current information war, everyone has the right to receive information from as many sources as he or she wishes,” she said. "Switching off and banning channels is not the way to address these problems; any potentially problematic speech should be countered with arguments and more speech."

-- Glenn Kates
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Michael Stele from: Michigan USA
March 28, 2014 00:08
Russia news media reports outright lies promoted by the Putin regime. They are so far from the truth it's embarrassing and an insult to the intelligence of all good Russians, and Russian speaking residents elsewhere.

by: Hryshka
March 28, 2014 00:28
What is Moscow complaining about? If practices censorship all the time. So if the Ukrainians are practicing it now, they're just behaving like the Russians. Isn't that what Putin's after?

by: Mark from: NJ, USA
March 28, 2014 00:37
Ukrainian censorship at this particular moment can be justified by of the country's fragility, Russian military threat, upcoming presidential campaign, as well as character and quality of Russian "information." It will be very decremental for the Ukranian democracy if such censorship persists after the transition period.

by: NM Remote from: NM, USA
March 28, 2014 01:42
Well, there should be truth to advertising - and from what I read, the Russian media is total fiction and does not serve "information" purpose, but rather, serves the Russian government under Putin in the same fashion that Goebbels's propaganda machine served Adolf Hitler. Therefore, it is not only acceptable to prohibit broadcasts of lies and deception, but a requirement of any government to prohibit or ban these disinformation broadcast stations.

Dunja Mijatovic, the media freedom representative of the OSCE, is blowing hot air to appease Putin, apparently.

by: Jason from: USA
March 29, 2014 13:43
Since Russia's state-controlled media insists on telling outrageous lies about "utter chaos" and "gangs of rampaging nazis" reigning in Ukraine, the new government has done the right thing. As others have pointed out, the first thing Russia's Fifth Column usurper government did in Crimea was cut off Ukrainian media, so that nothing is heard there but the Russian lie machine. Assuming Russia doesn't invade and the situation in Ukraine stabilizes, I'm sure Kyiv will go back to an open media environment - which is more than can be said for Russia, whose media is overwhelmingly a propaganda machine for their mafia fascist state.

by: Elvis from: Prague
March 31, 2014 12:03
Very lame move by the Kiev Gov. All they are doing is helping Putin justify his ideas about how Russians are treated as a minority in Ukraine. Really "smart" move by the Kiev crew...

Two wrongs do not make one right ladies and gentleman...

by: Solidus from: Kabul
March 31, 2014 18:21
I think it is necessary for a country that wants to establish real cultural, economic, and political sovereignty to cut off the ones who want to annihilate it; especially a country like Ukraine, which last experienced true sovereignty as Kievan-Rus under the line of Riurik.

I understand the OSCE's need to tow a neutral line, but I guarantee no one from any human right's organization would be ok with allowing Al-Qaida to broadcast propaganda about 6th-pillar extremism. So, why is it "questionable" to cut off those who are trying to paint Ukrainians as Nazis? I'm not denying that ultra-nationalist groups were piggybacking off of the pro-European protesters at the Maidan, but they are nothing compared to the neo-Nazi movement in St. Petersburg, for example - which is the largest per capita in the world. Ironic that the nation who suffered the most losses at the hands of Nazis would be a comfortable home to the largest group of them and then try to demonzie Ukrainians by labelling them as Nazis - pot definitely chastizes kettle.

About #UkraineUnspun

The information war is in full swing in the tense standoff between Ukraine and Russia. In an attempt to present a clearer picture, #UkraineUnspun will unravel information coming from Russian and Ukrainian media, politicians and activists. Written by Glenn Kates and contributors from RFE/RL.

Follow the hashtag #UkraineUnspun on Twitter and let us know what we should be covering -- or to weigh in on any of our stories. Or write us at

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