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Ukraine

Ukrainian journalists fight to counter influence of state-aligned media

Ukrainian journalists are fighting to create independent media in a bid to counter the influence of state-aligned news outlets. These journalists say government propaganda has escalated political tensions in Ukraine.

The snow in the "buffer zone" between the demonstrators and the security police on Hrushevskyi Street in the government quarter is black by now. The heavily armored special units stand behind the burnt-out wrecks of police busses. Patriotic music from the Soviet era blares out of their speakers.

"The security forces listen to that music around the clock," said Lesja Gansha, a journalist. "Their commanders turned on the music when we installed a projector to show the police news from independent TV broadcasters. They need to know how shamelessly the corrupt rulers enrich themselves."

Leja Gansha is convinced that the security forces don't know what the protesters really want. The information they get is biased and they don't have access to impartial news.

Biased information

Like the police, many Ukrainians are not sufficiently informed about the events in Ukraine, said the journalist. This is due to media like the state broadcaster "First Channel" or "Inter," which belongs to an oligarch from the president's camp. Most of Ukraine's major media outlets only broadcast the government's view. The demonstrators' positions are not mentioned. They are labeled as "troublemakers," said Gansha.

Ukraine demonstrators against censorship and for freedom of opinion
(Foto: Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainians continue to demonstrate for a free press

The supporters of the President also demonstrate in the government quarter. They call the demonstrators "nationalists and fascists."

"They don't want stability," said one woman. Yanukovych has to restore order, she continued. The media loyal to the government repeats such statements every day.

TV channels like "First Channel" or "Inter" don't report that government opponents are repeatedlybeat up or that police arbitrarily arrests activists. Their news mainly consists of statements form the interior ministry which blames the demonstrators for the violence.

Impact of propaganda

"That's symptomatic," said media expert Diana Dutsyk in an interview with DW. She remembers the beginning of the protests two months ago. The feared special unit "Berkut" wanted to clear the pro-European demonstrators from Independence Square with force and the state media only reported about the "several injured police". They allegedly were attacked by the demonstrators. They did not report about the violence from the police or the severely injured protesters.

"The propaganda from the media loyal to the government resulted in more aggressive and more emotional confrontation in Ukraine," said Dutsyk. Particularly in the east and the south of Ukraine, independent media - which shows a realistic picture of the situation - does not exist, according to the media expert.

The general defamation of the government opponents as ultra nationalists who are ready to use violence makes an impact. The supporters of the president now accept the police violence as legitimate means "to restore order," said Dutsyk. He media expert is convinced that the country more needs independent media including public broadcasters where all social forces have their say.

Journalists take the initiative

Ukrainian Journalist Dmytro Hnap 
(Foto: Eugen Theise/DW)

Dmytro Hnap founded the independent internet TV channel "Hromadske-TV"

That's why some journalists like Dmytro Hnap took the initiative. He and 30 other journalists founded the online TV channel "Hromadske-TV" (public TV ) without the usual support of oligarchs or politicians and without government funding.

"That's the only way for me to conduct investigative journalism and report about corrupt politicians," Hnap said. "I don't have to consider the interests of a business man who is connected with politics."

The money for the channel comes from donations of its audience. Together with the money from foreign foundations, he collected more than 300,000 euros ($407, 239) in the past months. Since the beginning of the pro-European demonstrations, more and more journalists have joined "Hromadske-TV" to report on the political and economic crisis of the country.

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