Open Letter on Pressure after the World Newspaper Congress
The Ukrainian Week would like to inform the Ukrainian and international community of the harassment of the publication after the World Newspaper Congress in Kyiv
The Ukrainian Week has been published since January 2010 as the international English-language edition of Ukrayinskiy Tyzhden published in Ukrainian by ECEM Media GmbH, Austria, since 2007. It is one of the few publications on the Ukrainian media market, guided by European standards. Having its own clear position on events taking place in Ukraine, the editorial office has never given in to external influence and did not publish customized materials, which, unfortunately, is a standard practice for most members of the Ukrainian mass media. In January, the publication won the Gerd Bucerius “Free Press of Eastern Europe-2012” award, which has been awarded by the German Zeit-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius, together with the Norwegian Fritt Ord (Free Word) Foundation – “for impartiality, professionalism, quality of work, social activism and courage”. The publication consistently stood by the real European integration and irreversible changes within Ukrainian society, the business environment and the state administration sector, which would pave the way for the transformation of Ukraine into a modern European democracy; it always strongly criticized various pro-government and opposition political forces and organizations, the actions of which did not promote, profaned or impeded relevant transformations.
There has been constant pressure on Ukrayinskiy Tyzhden on the part of the government and monopolists of the media market associated to it, although it manifested itself in different forms. But as of the beginning of September, it reached a new level, which lies in the single-minded squeezing out of the publication from the market by means of blocking its access to readers. This became particularly noticeable after a critical publication dedicated to the World Newspaper Congress in Kyiv, which took place in early September of this year. The article addressed the problems related to the monopolization of the printed media market and manipulations related to it, which distort the Ukrainian media market and make the functioning of market mechanisms impossible. As a result, large media-holdings, owned, as a rule, by Ukrainian oligarchs, dictate their conditions on the market. These media-holdings are generally not self-sufficient market participants, merely subdivisions of these oligarchs’ business empires. At the same time, since the media business is, a priori, unprofitable under existing conditions in Ukraine, for the most part, controlled media execute the function of a manipulator of public opinion within the country. More specifically, Ukraine, with an absolute majority of Ukrainian-speakers is experiencing discriminatory conditions for the functioning of the mass media published in the Ukrainian language, which has already led to the actual destruction of the Ukrainian-language segment of printed publications.
It was after the publication of this issue that the management of State Enterprise Boryspil International Airport banned the distribution of both Ukrayinskiy Tyzhden and The Ukrainian Week on its territory. We were informed about this by the advertising agency, through which our magazines were placed at the airport: “Boryspil airport employees were forced to remove Ukrayinskiy Tyzhden (The Ukrainian Week) from the press stands as a result of the publication of articles against the current government. After Ukrayinskiy Tyzhden (The Ukrainian Week) was removed for the second time, the airport’s administration banned putting itout. Based on the information mentioned above, we are unfortunately forced to discontinue distribution of your publication there.” (see copy of the letter, forwarded by e-mail on September 11th). Thus, Ukrayinskiy Tyzhden and The Ukrainian Week have lost access to an important readership.
In addition, the distribution of Ukrayinskiy Tyzhden was blocked by the UMH Group media-holding (President Borys Lozhkin), a major player on the Ukrainian market of printed publications, which is trying to monopolize it. Several distribution networks, related to UMH Group, particularly Presa Trade LLC (Press Trade LLC, Kyiv), Tvoya Presa (Your Press, Kharkiv) etc., refused to sell our publication without giving any explanations, regardless of signed contracts. It was the President of UMH Group who was an inspiration behind the holding of the World Newspaper Congress in Kyiv in a format designated to make the Yanukovych regime look good in the eyes of the international community.
Thus, the government is restricting our access to the reader, acting both directly, and indirectly through “friendly” media structures.
In a situation, where there is no normal advertising market in the country, under conditions when Ukrayinskiy Tyzhden and The Ukrainian Week refuses to publish customized materials in principle, and the main source of income is funds received from the sale of its magazines – the situation with the artificial blocking of access to the readership could be a heavy blow to the publication. Thus, we view these actions as an attempt by the government to force a foreign investor to withdraw from the publication of Ukrayinskiy Tyzhden and The Ukrainian Week.
The Ukrainian Week
Publishing house and advertising agency
Letter No. 04/09-12 dated September 11, 2012
To: A. M. Reshetnyk
Director of Ukrayinskiy Tyzhden LLC
Dear Mr. Reshetnyk,
Availing of this opportunity, AT Media management assures you of our respect and informs of the following.
Boryspil airport employees were forced to remove UkrayinskiyTyzhden (The Ukrainian Week) from the press stands as a result of the publication of articles against the current government. After UkrayinskiyTyzhden (The Ukrainian Week) was removed for the second time, the airport’s administration banned putting itout. Based on the information mentioned above, we are unfortunately forced to discontinue distribution of your publication there.