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Ukrainian TV Journalists Decry New 'Censorship'

Journalists have said some topics are now "closed"
Journalists have said some topics are now "closed"
KYIV -- 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 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.

Presidential Changes

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 afterwards 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.

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 valuable businesses from being harassed by the new authorities.

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.