Ukrainians living in the Russian-occupied Donbass and those living in the rest of Ukraine exist in “two parallel realities” because the media in the Russian-controlled areas increasingly resembles those in North Korea while the media in the rest of Ukraine often fails to live up to the highest standards of journalism.
That is the conclusion of a new study carried out by Kyiv’s Apostrophe portal and reported today by Elena Panchenko (apostrophe.ua/article/society/media/2016-09-24/luganskaya-kndr-chto-stalo-so-smi-na-zahvachennom-donbasse/7400).
Following the Russian occupation, the survey found, the pro-Moscow authorities closed all but two of the local newspapers, forced them to hew an anti-Ukrainian line, blocked the majority of Ukrainian Internet sites, and created conditions in which journalists either fled to Ukraine or sought other kinds of work.
The only “alternative sources” to what are mouthpieces for the official line are social networks and reports by those travelling to and from the rest of Ukraine.
Since the Russian intervention, the pro-Moscow powers that be have arrested 62 journalists, most in the first months of their rule, although harassment and arrests of journalists have continued, and thus the survey concludes that now, “Ukrainian journalists can work in Luhansk only underground.”
Most pro-Ukrainian local journalists left two years ago, not only because of their convictions but because life in Luhansk had become unbearable for more general reasons. Most pro-Ukrainian internet sites are blocked, although a few providers have ignored the orders of the pro-Moscow authorities, Apostrophe says.
The remaining local media provide useful materials on non-political subjects, like sports and cultural activities; but the outlets can do so only by avoiding political issues entirely or carrying pro-Moscow stories attacking Ukraine. That is the price of doing business under the occupation.
The Russian controlled and the Ukrainian controlled areas of the Donbass live as a result “in parallel realities.” They are checked and linked together only by the reports of those who travel back and forth between them. Unfortunately, the Apostrophe report says, those on the Ukrainian side aren’t always performing according to the highest journalistic standards either.
Some outlets are highly selective in what they report about Russian-occupied areas, choosing only those stories which will show those regions “in a comic or stupid form.” While this may be understandable given the Russian invasion, it really doesn’t help matters, Apostrophe concludes.
By Paul Goble, Window on Eurasia