The Ukrainian press faces many challenges, said Oksana Bogdanova, Editor-in-chief of Komsomolskaya Pravda, at the 19th World Editors Forum in Kiev last week. Her paper is a major Ukrainian daily with a readership of a million a day.
Professional standards and ethics are not always valued, and subsequently trust in the press has fallen and therefore so has the audience. The press also has to fend off competition from television, and faces further complexity because the country has both Ukrainian- and Russian-language media.
A significant problem is that the majority of media are owned by larger corporations, who do not rely on their media properties for income, she explained. Oligarchs invest in media not for profit, but to advertise and lobby for their other businesses. They are therefore not interested in developing their publications.
The few companies whose media business provides their basic income are much more interested in developing their products, and “providing new technologies, defending the authority of media, independence of the press and professional standards,” said Bogdanova.
She questions whether, as the influence of new technologies becomes more and more apparent and anyone can express their opinion, the role of the journalist will become less necessary. She believes it will not, but stressed the need for higher journalistic standards.
“The quantity of the doubtful, unchecked information published by media, the minimum quantity of journalistic investigations substituted for information from one source, and the publication of compromising materials” demonstrate this problem, Bogdanova said. “Plagiarism or distortion of the facts are not considered a professional offence,” she added.
A major standards issue is the problem of “dgynsa” or “jeansa,” which means editorial content that is paid for by an interested party: effectively, the publication of advertising materials as editorial, said Bogdanova. This is a widespread practice, and can largely be explained by the financial difficulties of the media, she said. This has had a serious effect on public trust.
Standards are not clearly defined in the Ukraine, which Bogdanova believes is lacking in associations of journalists and institutions which would demand adherence to certain principles. “In my opinion, corporate unanimity of the journalistic community could have an essential impact on public opinion and the position of state bodies,” she said.
“We should create unconditional and generally accepted standards of the journalistic profession after the formation of working associations,” she urged.
For more on press freedom in Ukraine please see WAN-IFRA's report, downloadable here