Freedom of Speech - Ukrainian Style: Persecution of Journalists and Total Censorship

Freedom of Speech - Ukrainian Style: Persecution of Journalists and Total Censorship

Europe and the United States expressed their full and unambiguous support for the Maidan movement. It was based on the affirmations that the protesters fighting a tyrant and dictator Yanukovych were faithful to democratic values. The overwhelming xenophobia, the dissemination of Neo-Nazi views and totalitarian aspirations of the movement leaders were ignored. The support resulted in a bloody coup and coming to power of outright fascist dictatorship when armed groups near to the powers that be could terrorize people at their own free will and even eliminate those who have fallen out of favor. The new officials like the Minister of Defense or the Speaker of Parliament plan to build concentration camps for millions and practice coercive resettlement of the people residing in certain regions, anyone who has sympathy for protests against the Neo-Nazism going on a rampage is subject to elimination, arrest or hard labor. 

Freedom of speech is a basic element of democracy. Many countries are criticized for the freedom of speech restrictions. The West does its best to turn a blind eye on what’s happening in Ukraine because it will have to admit that the situation there is very much similar to the European dictatorships of the 1930s or the egregious tyrannies in the Africa of the 1970s. 

The new government started to crack down of media from the very first days it came to power in February ordering all Russian central TV channels go out of air. A month later they tried to close 2000, a respected analytical weekly negatively highlighting the new rulers’ policies. Many left wing newspapers like Borotba and Rabochaya Gazeta (Workers’ newspaper) were closed, their offices plundered. 

A central TV channel was attacked by members of Neo-Nazi Svoboda Party. The organization is represented in the government led by acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. The attack was led by the party member. The editor-in-chief was beaten and coerced into signing a resignation. 

Even before the coup the Pravy Sector, the main militants’ arm of Maidan movement, started to make lists of the journalists to be physically liquidated after the change of power. For instance, Sergey Kolesnik, a journalist from Kharkov was included into the “assassination list» of the organization Patriot of Ukraine, part of Pravy Sector, in January 2014. He survived an attempt on his life by Nazi in 2011. Andrey Gorokhov from Kiev also highlighted the events when Andrey Beletsky, the head of the Patriot of Ukraine, went on trial accused of the assassination attempt to murder Kolesnikov. Today Kolesnikov and Gorokhov have to hide beyond the Ukrainian borders. Beletsky, who was freed from jail by the new government, is the commander of Azov battalion privately funded by Igor Kolomoisky, governor of Dnepropetrovsk region. 

The editor-in chief Kharkov-based Glagol Konstantin Dolgov and the outlet’s reporter Andrey Borodavka, as well as Kiev-based Borotba journalists Andrey Manchyuk and Evgeniy Golyshkin have been subject to arrests and persecutions on the part of new rulers. In June 2014 Konstantin Kevokyan, director of Kharkov-based TV company Pervaya Stolitsa (First Capital), was expelled from the national association of journalists. Sergey Rulev, was detained and tortured at Maidan. Now he has to seek refuge abroad because of threats to his life. Kiev-based reporer Alexander Chalenko, well-known observer Rostislav Ishenko, Greek Orthodox journalists Dmitry Zhukov and Igor Druz and popular blogger Andrey Seleznev – all have had to leave the country escaping prosecutions. Valery Kaurov, editor-in-chief of Greek Orthodox newspaper Pravoslaviy Telegraph (Orthodox Telegraph) was indicted on a standard charge of inciting separatism and had to go abroad. Pravy Sector militants threatened Olga Kievskaya, editor-in-chief of Anti-Orange website. They said they would throw sulfuric acid into her face making her leave the country. 

Vladimir Rogov, a journalist from Zaparozhie, was riding his car to make a broadcast to Moscow. He was kidnapped by Ukraine’s security service operatives to be kept handcuffed in a barn for a few days and then set free in the forest with a warning that he’d be killed in case he appears in Ukraine again. Alexey Selivanov, the head of Cossack youth organization and a publisher, was beaten in the heart of Kiev by Neo-Nazi militants. A case has been recently brought against him by prosecutor’s office. He is charged with financing terrorism. Journalists Dmitry Skvortsov, Vladimir Skachko, Dmitry Djanghirov. Alexander Luzin, editor-in-chief of Slavyanskaya Gazeta (Slav Newspaper), writer and historian, publisher and blogger Miroslav Berdnik have to go into hiding because of threats. Oles Buzina has already emigrated being destitute of his right for work. All these people are well-known media men persecuted by pro-government forces. 

A journalist always runs a risk for his life if the events are highlighted differently from the government’s interpretation. A British TV journalist has been kidnapped for a few days by pro-government militants. They told him he was going to be shot. His Italian colleague and the interpreter were killed by Ukrainian army. Two Russian TV reporters had been hunted for a few days to be finally killed. Russian TV operator Anatoliy Klyan was killed shooting the footages of civilians leaving Slavyansk. A few Russian TV teams were set a large by Ukrainian army only after the protests of journalists around the world. 

Many of those who read Ukrainian media note that the events appear to be highlighted in the very same way, almost in unison. It’s easy to explain. In March the new rulers introduced a moratorium on criticism of the new government. In other words they established severe censorship excluding any dissent. They send instructions to media outlets telling the outlets’ editors how and what to write. Even this is not enough. Just a few days ago Olga Gerasiumiu, one of Maidan leaders elected to become member of the Radio National Television and Broadcasting Council of Ukraine said the Council’s goal is to do away with subversive activities of the fifth column among the journalists ranks. 

The people in the United States and Europe are gullible enough to believe the beautifully sounded pledges of Kiev rulers about their allegiance to democracy. At the same time the freedom of speech in Ukraine has since long become an element of Neo-Nazi dictatorship resembling the George Orwell’s «Ministry of Truth».