Reporters Without Borders

Open letter to Igor Kolomoyskyi about UNIAN news agency

Open letter to Igor Kolomoyskyi about UNIAN news agency

Published on Wednesday 23 May 2012.
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To Mr. Igor Kolomoyskyi
President
Glavred Media Holding
29 Saksahanskoho Str
Kyiv, Ukraine

Dear Mr. Kolomoyskyi,

Reporters Without Borders, an international organization that defends freedom of information, would like to express its disquiet about allegations of censorship within UNIAN, the news agency you own.

We have no intention of meddling in UNIAN’s labour disputes or editorial policies, but we feel the need to share with you our concern about a number of issues that go beyond UNIAN and affect freedom of information in general in Ukraine.

Oleksander Kharchenko’s removal from his position as UNIAN editor in chief on 15 May was hard to understand. At first, no explanation was given. Then it was attributed to purely commercial issues unrelated to the responsibilities defined in his job description. In various communiqués and statements, UNIAN’s employees said they saw his removal as an attempt by the management to take control of editorial decision-making. In support of this claim, they cited several dispatches and articles that were blocked or challenged because of criticism of the authorities.

We hail the efforts that have been made to reach a negotiated solution and Kharchenko’s reinstatement in a non-subordinate position is a positive development. But long-term structural solutions are needed to recover the trust of both the editorial staff and the public. Editorial independence can never be taken for granted, even within the most distinguished media and whatever the intentions of their owners.

We therefore support the talks that are under way with a view to creating an editorial board within UNIAN, one that will define its editorial policies in a concrete and transparent manner, with the aim of protecting it from any external political or commercial influence. We very much hope that these talks reach a successful conclusion.

It is to your credit that UNIAN is a leading news agency, one recognised for the forthright quality of its reporting. It would be very regrettable if internal dissent ended up depriving the media and public of this essential news outlet. We would therefore like to receive assurances from you that Glavred is determined to safeguard freedom of information within the group and that no pressure on UNIAN’s editorial staff will be tolerated.

Preserving UNIAN’s independence will be seen by the public and by your Ukrainian and international partners as evidence of respect for freedom of expression and of confident management.

We thank you in advance for the attention you give to our letter and we will continue to follow the situation closely.

Sincerely,

Olivier Basille, Director of Reporters Without Borders

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