StopFake.org offers its readers an article by journalist Elizabeth Surganova published on Lenta.ru on March, 7, 2014. This article is the personal opinion of the author and does not pretend to be objective or factual material.
Information war in Ukraine.
Six months ago, the Ukrainian media market was discussed along the same line as the Russian market: the crackdown on freedom of speech. Yanukovych began to prepare the media for elections in 2015 using the familiar pattern used in Russia: cleanup of opposition channels, assailing the reputation of news agencies, buying the largest media holdings from pro-government oligarchs. However, with the beginning of protests in Kyiv, the Ukrainian media suddenly came out – authorities were not up to continue the crackdown in the media, and the need for timely information about what’s happening in and around Maydan increased dramatically. The audience of “Ukrayins’ka Pravda” alone has increased from 250,000 to one million unique users per day during these months, and the new Internet TV channels – ” Espresso TV ” and “Hromadske TV” started to overtake the main air channels by popularity.
But as for Russian media in the past, the opposition speeches became a trial and a temptation for Ukrainian media market participants. Liberal media and TV stations began talking not just about what pro-government media were silent about, but actively express their own positions – for Ukrainian journalists it was important to emphasize that they are “with their people” and against the government. At the peak of Euromaydan “Ukrayins’ka Pravda” (”Ukrainian Truth”) has renamed itself as “Evropeyiska Pravda” (”European Truth”), “Hromadske TV” was arguing live with deputies from the Party of Regions.
Talking about professional ethics and fairness to people who work in military conditions is difficult and embarrassing, especially when you are sitting alone in a secure Moscow editorial office. Humanly impossible not to sympathize with them – they live in a country that literally gives “soul and body” for their ideals, and which are now attacked by aggressive neighbours. However, any revolution and struggle for ideals suggest that the interests of some get sacrificed for the sake of the interests of others. And media, which take a revolutionary position, even if it seems to them right at the moment, inevitably lose objectivity and begin to describe events one-sided.
Taking the position of “we are with people”, Ukrainian media that supported the protests, actually took the position “we are with Maydan”. The part of the population that fears Maydan and revolution for various reasons, were not considered as people, and their interests were ignored. Now, due to the crisis in Crimea, media and social networks started to talk about these people, but in some compassionate pejorative wording (and also well familiar to us), such as “brainwashed”, “zombie.” Or even: “titushki”, “cattle”, “traitors”.
It is obvious for them that the pro-Russian part of Ukraine was “fooled” and “made into zombies” by Russian television and local media that talk about “rampant fascism” on the Maydan and West which finances “banderivtsy”. Most Ukrainian media, together with the Western media and the liberal part of Russian journalists talk with indignation about the information war waged by the Kremlin. Its arsenal is Dmitry Kiselev with the regular accusatory speeches, censored songs of Russian musicians, falsified stories about the Ukrainian “militants”. Articles and entire sites are devoted to exposing aggressive Russian propaganda. And, in general, this is fair.
The only problem is that in response to it, Ukraine more distinctly delivers its own propaganda , only instead of Yanukovych – with Putin as the main enemy. Propaganda, which liberal Russian media and the West are trying to ignore. Some, even worse, perceive it as absolutely justified act: the state defends its integrity on the brink of a split, and all methods are justified. As a result, there are proposals to Kyiv operators to disconnect Russian TV channels, and prohibit Russian media on the country’s territory, as they affect the consciousness of people in many different ways – to say, that even “pornography causes less harm than the TV series “Cops” on the evening air”.
Of course, many Ukrainian media outlets understand that a ban of the TV channel “Russia-1” would immediately turn it into an analogue of “Radio Liberty” as during “Cold War”, and a split in the country will only intensify. Now in Crimea Ukrainian channels are switched off as a response to such proposals. Many people understand that such restrictions are no better than the censorship, against which Maydan fought.
The Kremlin propagandists will hardly voluntarily give up the information war. There is more hope it would be done by Ukrainian journalists. In a situation where no one really understands what is really going on, and when each biased opinion may provoke an open conflict, it is more important than ever for media to exist, which give detailed, sober and balanced talk about what’s happening. Even if they have to disclose unflattering facts about those you humanly sympathize with.