In the lead-up to World Press Freedom Day 2014, our Ukraine experts Adrian Karmazyn and Maryana Drach participated in a Reddit AMA to answer questions about press freedom and the reporting environment in Ukraine. We’ve compiled some of the Q&A below, though we recommend you read the entire conversation:
On threats to press:
Adrian Karmazyn: One of our VOA journalists faced rather blatant intimidation a few months back. He was covering the Automaidan motorcade protests that went to the then-president’s lavish residence. Soon thereafter law enforcement officials “visited” his family and threatened to take his license away.
Maryana Drach: In April alone more than 20 journalists went missing in Donetsk region, 4 of them are still in detension in Slovyansk (town in that region). We recommend journalists to keep low profile, never risk their lives for the sake of a good video or audio. There is no recipe for absolute safety. We also had similar incidents in Crimea and Kyiv. In Kyiv during Maidan protests this winter two our journalists were beaten by the police. In Kharkiv yesterday the police actually helped to defend our colleagues. Circumstances can change.
On the political environment in Ukraine:
Adrian Karmazyn: Many Ukraine followers and the numerous activists and NGOs that were engaged in the Maidan or supported it are hopeful that a new generation is taking over and that European values will now become dominant in Ukraine.
Maryana Drach: The hope never dies. I think that the West should not give up and continue the provide assistance to Ukraine with proper checks. Civil socity representatives say that there are at least some competent people in this transitional government, like Pavlo Sheremeta, who is charge of the economic development, and Serhiy Kvit, the education minister. Sheremeta got an MBA from Atlanta and studied at Harvard. Kvit was the president of the well known Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, propably the best private institution of higher learning in Ukraine. The newly appointed chief of the Lustration Committee Yehor Sobolev is the former investigative journalist. We should monitor what they are doing, and we will. The challenges are immense, and reforms will take time. And time is slipping away very fast, considering what is happening in the East of the country.
On how they maintain credibility:
Maryana Drach: We demand that our journalists never take sides. And we have the track record of providing fact-based and independent information. This is the best argument during information war.
Adrian Karmazyn: By telling the truth. We truly believe that our journalistic credibility is what keeps people tuned into our TV news shows and visiting our online platforms. Credibility and compelling, useful news and information and analysis.
Adrian Karmazyn is the Ukrainian Service Chief for the Voice of America. Maryana Drach is the Director of Ukrainian Service for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Both broadcasting networks are providing hard-hitting, comprehensive news coverage of the current situation in Ukraine, ranging from live blogging breaking news to daily news briefs on U.S.-Ukraine relations, which are broadcast on major TV stations in Ukraine.