Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tough times ahead for Ukraine's journalists?

The popular 'Shuster Live' TV program, produced by the Savik Shuster Studio company, is broadcast on the the TRK Ukraina channel, which is wholly owned by Rinat Akhmetov's SCM financial-industrial group.

Akhmetov, Ukraine's wealthiest businessman, is a major sponsor of Party of Regions as well being one of this party's parliamentary deputies.

Last January, Akhmetov won an undefended judgment in a London court against the Ukrainian internet news site 'Obozrevatel', and some of its staff for allegedly libellous articles written by journalist Tatyana Chornovil. Chornovil continues exposing the shady manner in which Ukraine's richest oligarchs, including Akhmetov, acquired their huge assets, to this day.

And yet Chornovil, and other leading Ukrainian investigative journalists appear regularly on Shuster's chaotic and unstructured show, hotly debating current political issues with deputies and representatives from all political parties, including those from PoR.

Does this indicate that Akhmetov and his party consider that these journalist cannot damage them politically? Or are they sufficiently confident to 'take their best shots', and 'ride out' any blows landed by them?

During last week's Savik Shuster's show, Viktor Yanukovych was vigorously questioned by Shuster's deputy, Mustafa Nayem, about the highly dubious and irregular manner in which the PoR leader had acquired a huge former state-owned dacha, 'Mezhyhirya'. Yanukovych's replies were brusque, arrogant and rude. In no way did he answer the questions posed. Sadly, the reaction of the audience to this matter, and probably that of large numbers of the electorate, was that of indifference. Perhaps too many are still resigned to the opinion that in Ukraine the 'nachal'stvo', whatever their hue, always steal, that normal rules on accumulation of wealth and property do not apply to them.

Yanukovych's responses on how he would tackle the ever-increasing endemic problem of corruption sounded as convincing as a five year-old's fibs.

It must be dispiriting for journalists to know how little impact is made by their revelations of Ukraine's leaders' systematic abuse of power, and a worry to think of any possible 'pay-back' in the weeks after next month's presidential election ends. Could we be watching their last hurrah?

p.s. A reminder from the past: it's not that many years ago since Ukrainian investigative journalists came to sticky ends. I have blogged on these matters before.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Will Yanik appear on Shuster?

"The leader of the opposition, Party of Regions' Viktor Yanukovych, will appear in the Friday Shuster Live talk show, Anna Herman, widely believed to be Yanukovych speech writer, said Dec. 22."

This after an official statement posted the day before on the TRK Ukraina website, the channel on which the Shuster program is broadcast, expaining that because PM Tymoshenko had the full program to herself last Friday on account of president Yushchenko and leader of the opposition Viktor Yanukovych failing to turn up for that show [see previous blog], then the TV company proposes, in the interest of fair play, the latter two are provided with comparable air time on Shuster's program.

Curiously, at time of posting of this blog - about 24 hours prior to Yanukovych's supposed appearance, there is nothing about this on the Shuster program web page.

Important appearances by leading figures are normally announced well in advance on this site. My guess is Yanik's 'minders' are negotiating hard with the Shuster and his producers, on the format of the program, who will be asking the questions, what questions will be, and so on...and no agreement on these matters has been reached yet...

UPDATE: Yankovych's appearance in tonight's Shuster program entitled 'Priorities for the country' was announced today on the program's website.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Open goal for Tymoshenko to shoot at

Last Friday, PM Yulia Tymoshenko answered questions from journalists and other political analysts for over three hours on the flashy 'Shuster-Live' television programme.

Watch it all here.

President Yushchenko and PoR leader Viktor Yanukovych had been invited to take part but had declined to attend, thus providing Tymoshenko over three hours of almost unchallenged TV prime time - political gold dust in anyone's language - which she took full advantage of in her usual masterful manner.

Most voters receive most information on politicians via television - the most important mass media by far. It could even be said, "If you're no good on TV don't even think about going into politics."

It is unmaginable that the owners of the tv channel on which Shuster's programs are broadcast, major backers of PoR, are not aware of this. Any broadcast by the prime minister attracts a large audience and hence generates large advertising revenues - perhaps one reason why the program was allowed to run without the president and leader of the opposition attending. Most of the questioning was 'soft-ball' and easily dealt with by the PM - some journalists even declaring their investigations had confirmed the PM's allegations that Viktor Yanukovych's Mezhehirya dacha had been dishonestly appropriated - but it did not, however, appear that any of the questions were 'planted'.

Yanukovych has declared recently that because Tymshenko is an artist, and he will not compete, or debate with her on tv.

In an excellent in-depth analytical article in 'Lyeviy Bereg' its authors suggest the 'most optimistic' result for the first round of the January 17th presidential election would be a small lead for Yanukovych over Tymoshenko. [His current lead in current OP's is significant]. According to the article a large lead, say over 8% after the first round of voting could plunge the country into a very nasty campaign - outpouring of 'kompromat', challenges to the result etc. akin to 2004. Could this is the thinking behind 'Ukraina' television's decision to run the Shuster program?

The article presents two scenarios for a possible Yanukovych presidency, and three scenarios for a Tymoshenko presidency; it has nine most interesting conclusions which I may summarise later, time permitting.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Justice for Demjanjuk?

By far the best article I've read on the Demjanjuk 'trial' currently being staged in Germany, from 'Esquire', here

It's a bit long, but stick with it..

"Human justice - frail at best - at worst a hopeless oxymoron."

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Uncle Joe - what a guy..

London 'Times' on "Russian textbooks attempt to rewrite history" here.

An hour-long BBC TV documentary on this subject will be viewable, probably from tomorrow, here