The dramatic events unfolding in Ukraine have put the country – and its media – in a state of near-exhaustion. Yet the pace of change continues. Hopes that the removal of President Viktor Yanukovic would lead to a state of calm were soon punctured by Crimea’s secession to Russia, and agitation in the east of the country by pro-Russian separatists has thrown the very future of the country into doubt.
Throughout, MDIF clients from across the country, both in the broadly pro-European west and broadly pro-Russian east, have provided extensive rolling coverage, keeping citizens informed with responsible, even-handed reporting. Like most of their media colleagues, they are highly aware of the dangers partisan coverage could have on such a tense situation.
Clients have used a range of reporting tools to cover the events, including live streaming from the Maidan and from the streets of their own cities, twitter feeds, photo blogs and regular blogs. All of them are providing frequently updated news online, and most news websites have attracted record traffic.
Journalists have taken care to provide context that is free from provocation and extremist language, many of them trying to provide perspectives from beyond their own communities. So, a newspaper in the Russian-speaking east of the country explained the uprising in the west as a direct response to high levels of corruption and the authorities’ disregard for people’s rights. Another refused to print materials that endorsed a split of the country, despite the lucrative contract that was on offer.
But the situation remains tense, particularly in the east, where a number of our clients are based. In such an atmosphere, tolerance for independent news and opinion can be fragile and we will continue to stay in close contact and carefully monitor the developing situation.
Though profound, the political changes sweeping the country are only part of the media story. Economically, all parts of Ukraine face serious problems, as relations with its largest trading partner and energy supplier have fractured, and this is impacting on media revenues. The advertising market, which was hardly buoyant before, has slowed further, though there is hope that the Presidential elections scheduled for 25 May will give it a much-needed shot in the arm. And with the dramatic devaluation in the hryvnia, imported raw materials have become much more expensive.
In spite of the undoubted political and economic challenges ahead, many media from across the country share a determination to build a common future. Their immediate focus is on providing citizens with much-needed information on the current events, including the upcoming elections. It’s clear that they share a deep sense of responsibility to report fairly on events and to do everything they can to ensure that whatever form of government is in place in the future, it is held accountable to the people.