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Munk Centre
 

Olena Nikolaenko
(MA candidate, Kansas State University)

"Press Freedom in Ukraine: the Reversal Wave?"

The Petro Jacyk Program on the Study of Ukraine continued its busy schedule of seminars with a February 26 talk by Olena Nikolayenko (MA candidate, Kansas State University) on Press Freedom In Ukraine: the Reversal Wave? In order to assess the question of the decline in press freedom after the first period of democratization, she conducted a comparative content analysis of the media coverage of the Ukrainian presidential elections of 1994 and 1999. The information was gathered from the Uriadovyi Kur'ier and the Holos Ukrainy, both provided by the Petro Jacyk Central and East European Resource Centre of the University of Toronto Library. The results of Ms. Nikolayenko's analysis will be incorporated into her MA thesis.

Ms. Nikolayenko started her talk with a broad overview of the theoretical framework and historical background that apply to the idea of media freedom. Her research seeks to test the thesis of reversal wave and period of stagnation, as developed by Samuel Huntington and Larry Diamond respectively.

Comparing the coverage bias in the two newspapers, Ms. Nikolayenko noted that, for the 1994 election, incumbent President Leonid Kravchuk received favourable press coverage with very little negative coverage. In the 1999 election, incumbent President Leonid Kuchma had positive press coverage at a rate approaching hundred percent. She noted that the other candidates in the 1999 election, who were more numerous than in 1994, received more space in the press media. All things considered, however, she asserted that across the two elections, one can discern a significant decline of press freedom.

In order to fully address the question of press freedom, Ms. Nikolayenko also looked at other factors such as harassment and attacks on journalists, press ownership structure, and the general politico-economic situation prevailing in Ukraine. She conncluded that the Ukrainian press is in a position of economic dependency.

Discussions with the audience raised the fact that estimates of the number of Ukrainian newspapers, circulation figures, and their market share can only be approximated since no official consensus exists. Statistical variation can be considerable from one evaluation ranking to another.

In conclusion, Ms. Nikolayenko reminded the audience that there are several manifestations of a reversal wave across the FSU region. Looking at the dictatorship in Belarus, Kuchmagate in 2001, the takeover of NTV and the closure of TV-6 in Russia, and Moldova--which is compared to an European Cuba--it is reasonable to wonder if the democratic process is not losing ground.

Igor Tchoukarine, CREES

   
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