“The Ukrainian News Media Thrived on Bribes”

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5TV (Ukraine): News anchor leads “we cannot be bought campaign” that proposes naming every journalist and editorial manager who was bought during the last election.

Beyond the obvious, such as the cardinal sin of plagiarism, the dishonesty of fabrication or the immorality of bribe-taking, journalism is a profession that has to be governed by ethical guiding principles rather than by rigid rules. The former liberate, and lead to better journalism. The latter constrain, and restrict our ability to operate. –Paul Holmes, Global Editor, Reuters, “A handbook of Reuters journalism” (388 pp. of guiding principles rather than rules)

Saprang Kallayanamitr* who is now assistant Secretary-General of the Council for National Security (ie the coup leaders’ new Quango) is reported as saying the following: “I suspect certain media outlets were paid to print Thaksin’s pictures in order to give him undue publicity”Bangkok Pundit, November 22, 2007

Item: Ukraine’s Journalists Fight to Save Image After Bribe Claims.

Source: Deutsche Welle | 13.12.2007

Vladimiro Montesinos is reportedly alive and well and buying up cheap property near Chernobyl.

Under the motto “We can’t be bought,” television journalists in Ukraine are fighting for change after some broadcasters succumbed to bribes from politicians during the last elections.

The television journalists in question work for a station owned by a former member of the government who formerly used his gazillion-jigawatt megaphone to root for the other team.

In other words, “We cannot be bought, because we already belong to the Chocolate King”?

In the 2003 study by the Institute for Public Relations on the probability that journalists would accept bribes for coverage, Ukraine ranked 19th, along with Taiwan, Mexico, and Argentina.

It receieved an assigned index of 2.75 on a scale of 5 (where 5 means low probability that journalists and editors can be bribed.)

Brazil ranked 14th, tied with Hungary and just above South Korea, with a score of 3.25.

(A similar campaign against corrupt journalistic practices emerge in South Korea about a decade ago. Reading up on that.)

But some of the scores Brazil received (4 out of 5 on accountability, 5 on professional codes of standards and practices, and most astonishingly, a 4 on the scale of “high adult literacy”) seem laughably inflated to me. The values were assigned by respondents who self-reported.

The Brazilian news media constantly cites a functional illiteracy rate of 60%, for example — though God only knows where they get their numbers. Brazil’s college-graduation rate is <5%. Canada: 40%.

On the quality of Brazilian codes of professional standards and practices, see

Brazil would have scored much higher had it not been for its score on “perception of comprehensive corruption laws with effective enforcement.” Which was zero. I imagine that score would be higher now.

Just as they did three years ago during the so-called Orange Revolution, Ukrainian journalists are once again out to save their profession’s reputation.

What blow did the profession’s reputation receive during the Orange Revolution? I am not up on that story.

How many of the allegedly offending news organizations belong to the U.S. government-funded Ukrainian Media Partnership Program (UMPP), I wonder?

UMPP works closely with the IREX-implemented, US Department of State-funded Internet Access and Training Program (IATP) to provide extensive assistance to the Ukrainian partners in designing and maintaining websites, developing professional sales presentations; and improving on-line journalism.

Any employees of Ronald Lauder? His group faced Foreign Corrupt Practices Charges in 2001. Studio 1 + 1. Russian mob ties. Ugly business.

Prosecutors are studying two transactions related to Central European Media’s Ukraine investment, according to documents and persons close to the investigation. In one, prosecutors are trying to determine if Mr. Lauder’s company paid $1.2 million to two Lebanese businessmen living in Ukraine, who then distributed it to some members of Ukraine’s television licensing board.

What ever happened to that case? CETV is still listed on the NASDAQ, and is up 66% on the year. WWD says it sold its Ukrainian assets in August 2006.

Last time, the government under then-President Leonid Kuchma had subjected journalists to censorship; now politicians are using monetary incentives to influence the news coverage in their favor.

If you really do have a gun to your head, it seems unfair that your reputation should suffer for it.

The most recent parliamentary elections on Sept. 30 were the last straw: Never before had so many reports by national broadcasters on political topics been paid for, according to independent observers.

“Big business for campaign reports”

Unprecedented sums flowed from the parties’ secret coffers into those of the television broadcasters, said Victoria Siumar from the Kiev Institute for Mass Information: A two-minute PR report cost around $5,000 (about 7,400 euros), while a broadcast with a live appearance from politicians went for $50,000 to $70,000.

Who is Siumar? What is the KIMI? Can I read its Form 990? How do they know this?

Googling up as head of KIMI is a certain Serhiy Taran, who also googles up as a “PORA Political Council member and Chairman of Sociovymir Sociological and Political Studies Centre” — variant: Sociovymir Psychological and Political Studies Center,” cited as the author of various exit polls — and affiliated with the International Institute of Democracy. PORA says it is a “grassroots” “civil society” movement of some kind.

A total of between $200 and $300 million was paid to broadcasters during the campaign, according to different estimates, Siumar added.

Different estimates made by whom?

“Campaign leader wants to name names”

A major part of the “We can’t be bought” campaign is monitoring broadcasters across the country in order to identify paid news reports. The initial findings would be published soon and include specific examples of bribery, said campaign co-founder Yegor Sobolyev.

Who is Sobolyev?

Answer: A news anchorman for 5 Kanal (5tv), apparently.

See more quote from the guy in this story on a memorial for Anya Politkovskaya.

On Linked In, there appears a certain Vladislav Synyahovskyy, who lists himself as “newsroom manager” for 5TV and lists his prior work experience as

  • Assistant [to] the Secretary at National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine
  • Secretary General, CDYU
  • Assistant [to] MP Ukrainian Parliament
  • Programme Manager Konrad Adenauer Fund Representation in Ukraine
  • Vice-chairman, DEMYC

At the National Security Council (Feb-Nov. 2005, that is, under Yuschenko) he worked at

  • Public appearence [sic] preparation
  • Economical [sic] and political research
  • Back ground [sic] materials and analytic
  • Media monitoring

At the Adenauer fund, he reports having done the following:

Preparation and conducting political educational seminars for youth, media workers, jounalists [sic] and politicians in cooperation with KAS representation in Ukraine

At DEMYC, he says he strove

To provide idea of conservatizm [sic] in modern style

Hmmmm. So, the newsroom at 5TV is managed by a Christian Democratic Young Ukrainian who “trained journalists, media workers and politicians” in “modern-style conzervatism” on behalf of foreign government-funded programs?

Then went to work for the state security apparatus as a media monitor?

And his anchorman is now conducting a moral panic campaign about the questionable independence and impartiality of (other) journalists?

He seems to enjoy reading Global Voices Online.

His stated profession: psychiatrist, listing an internship at a psychiatric hospital as his earliest job experience.

World Audit of Press Freedom (2006) rated the Ukraine “partially free,” noting

… because many major outlets are owned by business magnates and individuals with close ties to the government, coverage is often slanted in favor of specific economic or political interests.

So who owns 5TV anyway?

And hires former government “media monitors” to run its news operations?

Petro Oleksiyovych Poroshenko, reportedly.

Jan. 24, 2005 – appointed Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine

In other words, the news manager of 5TV is a former aide to the Secretary of National Security — its Donald Rumsfeld, as it were.

So 5TV news is owned by a political and former Ukrainian Donald Rumsfeld and edited by a psychiatrist who used to work for the Adenauer Fund.

The moral crusade is reported exclusively by Deutsche-Welle, which has a journalist training partnership with the Adenauer Fund — for whom the 5TV news (and troubled-mind) manager used to train journalists, media workers, and politicians.

The DW-RTC also maintains close contact with German and international media and cultural organisations. It organises joint projects abroad and in Germany with the Goethe Institute, the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation and the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation.

Profile from Eurasian Home:

Initially, Poroshenko belonged to the United Social Democratic Party of Ukraine, then joined the Party of Regions. In 2001 founded the “Solidarnost” Party that entered in the bloc “Our Ukraine”. At present, one of the parliamentary leaders of the “Our Ukraine” bloc. According to media, Poroshenko was one of active sponsors of Viktor Yushchenko’s election campaign in 2004. An active participant of the Orange Revolution. Poroshenko wields influence upon several Ukrainian mass media: the 5th national channel, Vinnytsky television channel “Ishtar”, Internet portal “Express-Inform”, radio NIKO-FM.

A business concern of “The Chocolate King” controls 30% of the domestic candy market, the profile reports.

He resigned in September 2005, followed closely by the sacking of the rest of the cabinet.

The president made the abrupt move after Petro Poroshenko, the powerful head of the military and law enforcement services, tendered his resignation amid growing claims of scandal.

What scandal?

Thursday’s dismissals came after Poroshenko, whose agency controls Ukraine’s military and law-enforcement services, and other top presidential aides were accused of corruption by some of their former Orange Revolution allies. Yushchenko called the allegations “groundless but very strong,” saying they demanded a response.

He was later cleared of 21 charges by the state prosecutor, I am reading. The controversy had to do with some sort of internecine conflict over energy negotiations with Russia. Ukraine Weekly:

In August, Mr. Poroshenko announced unilaterally that he would go to Moscow to negotiate with Russia on gas prices and supplies. Critics close to Ms. Tymoshenko charged that Mr. Poroshenko was not qualified to do so. Some critics have charged that Moscow was lobbying on behalf of Mr. Poroshenko and was adamant in refusing to deal with Ms. Tymoshenko, who had frequently accused the Russian state-controlled gas giant Gazprom of corruption in the transfer of gas from Turkmenistan to Ukraine and Russian oil companies of price-fixing in Ukraine.

The role of 5TV — “honest news” — as a pro-Yuschenko “buzz machine” is openly acknowledged by the USAID-funded report on the “role of the Internet” during the Orange Revolution, but it glosses over Poroshenko’s history as a media owner providing the same service in previous election cycles to Kuchma’s political machine.

The channel was oneof the vital assets contributed to the Yushchenko campaign by long-time ally and “godparent” Petro Poroshenko.

The CPJ asked Yuschenko to de-Kuchmafy private-sector media in an open letter in early 2005:

State regulation of the private media was highly politicized during Kuchma’s tenure. Private broadcast media, the primary source of news for most Ukrainians, was tightly controlled with nearly all influential television and radio stations in the hands of the oligarchs who supported Kuchma. The government harassed and often closed broadcast media that criticized government policies, provided news coverage of the political opposition, or broadcast news from foreign outlets such as the BBC, Deutsche Welle, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. One influential agency, the National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting, issued private broadcast licenses and monitored regulatory compliance in a secretive, politicized manner. State-owned broadcast media such as the national television station UT-1 operated as political party media outlets, serving the interests of influential politicians rather than the country’s citizens. Government agencies used politicized tax, fire, and safety inspections to punish media outlets in retaliation for critical print and broadcast reporting.

Poroschenko was one of the people they were talking about, but switched sides and became a media oligarch for the Orange Revolution, apparently. Upon which 5TV became subject to the same harrassment techniques. Prior to that, however?

In related news, Alberto Gonzales buys Fox News and hires “Jeff Gannon” as editor in chief.

Like Newsweek, rather than covering the obscure doings and controversies surrounding Karl Rove, they hire him as an editorial contributor.

Or, if you like, Al Gore buys MSNBC and hires, let’s see, George Stephanopolous (although George actually does have some solid journalistic bona fides, in my view) to run news operations.

Okay, let’s say Al “I invented the Internet” Gore — or, say, Howard “I get the Internet” Dean — hires, I don’t know, Arianna Huffington (former wife of the original political “I am a gay American”) or some alpha-blogger for Dean.

Or, say, hypothetically, that the director of the KGB becomes head of state, has a state-owned enterprise buy up all the news media in the country, and hires KGB psychological operations officers to run their news operations to make sure they parrot the Kremlin line.

All of whom then proceed to question other people’s editorial independence. Um, yeah.

Where will the naming of names be published?

Will it be published in English?

Sobolyev emphasized that his group wasn’t out to condemn politicians who had paid for broadcasts, but, above all, to spare the journalism profession.

Will the group refrain from naming them?

“I insist that we don’t just talk about broadcasters and tendencies, but that the names of those involved — from the managers to the journalists — are given,” Sobolyev said. “The country has to know who is responsible.”

Which are the bribe-takers, not the bribe-payers. In Brazil, technically speaking, a candidate can be unseated by the elections tribunal for “abuse of political and economic power” — such as vote-buying and out of bounds campaign propaganda.

The campaign leader isn’t so worried about getting flack from colleagues; he’s more concerned about bribery becoming common practice in the field.

“Reliable news is better for broadcasters”

“Paid news reports usually force lies onto the viewer, which some of them may believe,” but it’s even worse when those reports take the place of more important news, Sobolyev said.

The rhetoric you hear from the Rede Globo in Brazil on this point tends to be, “our superior ratings show that our audiences prefer being lied to.”

Globo’s ratings have fallen sharply in recent years, so you tend to hear that argument less.

Another of the group’s concerns is that the younger generation of journalists who didn’t experience censorship under Kuchma is less aware of the danger that media bribes present to press freedom. After all, the incentives could soon be replaced with harsh limitations, said Sobolyev.

Is honesty is the best policy, and the best hedge against political risk? What happens if you concentrate your maximum media-ratfink power on a candidate and that candidate fails to lose?

The campaign leader is convinced, however, that broadcasters will come to their senses, since bribes can’t constitute a sustainable income. To raise their ratings and maintain a stable income, broadcasters have to present reliable information and gain credibility with their viewers, he said.

This a one-source story with some guy whose institutional relationships are not fully disclosed. I want a second and third opinion.

In the meantime, the Ukraine Weekly reports (July 2007), there is another factor — the K Street, or Dick “Dicker of Democracy” Morrisonian, factor — to consider:

KYIV – President Viktor Yushchenko and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko have hired K Street consultants to improve their government relations with and images in Washington, according to Dielo, a Russian-language daily newspaper in Ukraine.

Mr. Yushchenko has recruited Stanton Anderson, a lawyer for the 1980 Reagan-Bush presidential campaign who founded Global USA Inc., a consulting firm that provides representation and assistance in Washington, including government affairs strategy and lobbying.

Mr. Anderson has extensive contacts in Washington, having served in numerous presidential appointments in the Reagan administration, as well as on boards of directors at public and private companies.

Ms. Tymoshenko has recruited Joe Lockhart, press secretary of former U.S. President Bill Clinton and a founding partner of The Glover Park Group, a consulting firm providing advocacy and image advertising, issues and crisis management, and consulting on legislative affairs and media relations.

Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and the Party of the Regions have already benefited from Washington political consultants, having hired Davis Manafort & Freeman Inc. to retool their image and improve government relations.

Paul Manafort, who served as a chief fund-raiser and campaign strategist in Robert Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign, is largely credited with reviving Mr. Yanukovych’s otherwise tarnished image following the Orange Revolution.

Tarnished by what? BBC:

… the humiliation of seeing his 2004 official victory in the presidential election snatched away from him. The 2004 result was cancelled on grounds of electoral fraud and victory went to the “Orange Revolution” led by Viktor Yushchenko.

Beyond ‘mir i druzhba’: The benefits of international media partnerships.
Author: South, Jeff
Journal: Quill
Pub.: 2007-08
Volume: 95
Issue: 6
Pages: 12(5)
ISSN: 00336475
Subject: PARTNERING; STRATEGIC alliances (Business); MASS media; NONPROFIT organizations; GOVERNMENT & the press; JOURNALISM — Objectivity; UKRAINE; UNITED States
Description: Language : English AN : 26051489 The article discusses the Ukrainian Media Partnership Program (UMPP), which creates relationships between selected media outlets in the United States and Ukraine. The UMPP is operated by the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), a nonprofit organization funded by the U.S. State Department whose mission includes promoting independent media in developing democracies. Since it was launched in 2002, the UMPP has arranged 16 partnerships between similarly sized newspapers, television stations, and radio stations. Typically, chosen employees visit their partner operations for a few weeks. The partners share information about business management, advertising, marketing, circulation, distribution, news coverage, journalistic ethics, technology and other
.

See also

(U.S. Embassy-sponsored media training features similar cooperation between Globosat, Univision (allegedly) and an NBC affiliate in Washington, D.C., on journalist training.)

THE SAME BUT DIFFERENT.
Author: Aitken, Lucy; Brown, Gareth
Journal: Campaign (UK)
Pub.: 2007-07-13
Issue: 28
Pages: 33(1)
ISSN: 00082309
Subject: MASS media industry; PERIODICALS — Publishing; TELEVISION broadcasting; COSMOPOLITAN (Periodical); MTV Networks; EUROPE, Eastern; CENTRAL European Media Enterprises Ltd.
Description: Language : English AN : 26321299 The article focuses on the mass media industry in Eastern Europe. Magazines such as “Cosmopolitan” and “Maxim” are published in most regions of Eastern Europe. Television stations like MTV Networks and the Cable News Network (CNN) are established in these regions. The television broadcasting company Central European Media Enterprises Ltd. (CME) owns many free-to-air television channels in Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine and Romania. INSET: The ex-pat perspective.

In Brazil, MTV and Playboy are run by the Editora Abril.

The power of negative thinking: corruption, perception and willingness to bribe in Ukraine.
Author: C[*]belkova, Inna; Hanousek, Jan
Journal: Applied Economics
Pub.: 2004-03-10
Volume: 36
Issue: 4
Pages: 383(15)
ISSN: 00036846
Subject: GOVERNMENT policy; POLITICAL corruption; PERCEPTION; BRIBERY; SCANDALS; UKRAINE
Description: Language : English AN : 12453997 DOI : 10.1080/00036840410001674303 This study provides an empirical analysis of the association between corruption perception and the willingness to offer bribes, as well as of the influence of different sources of information on corruption perception in the Ukraine. The higher the perceived corruption in an organization, the more probable it is that a person dealing with that organization will offer a bribe, therefore supporting corruption. Since corruption scandals in Ukraine seldom result in legal action, information about corruption in the mass media might actually encourage people to give bribes. This study found that corruption perception is one of the key factors in giving a bribe and that its positive/negative effects strongly depend on institutions and government policies.

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