UK backs independent media in Ukraine, & other reforms. Praise and concern.

I posted this comment on Facebook, especially aimed at Ukrainian professional friends who work on media related projects, and anyone who cares about reforms.

… and other friends working on media related projects may by interested in this UK FCO (Foreign Office – Foreign Ministry) announcement about support to independent media in Ukraine.
“Foreign Office Minister of State Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon will today (Tuesday 2 July) announce that the UK is supporting independent media in Ukraine and the wider region through a new £9million three year project, as he attends the Ukraine Reform Conference in Canada. The announcement comes ahead of the first Global Media Freedom Conference in London next week.”
And other political reforms.

It was clear from my three months working in Ukraine recently that media independence – at local and regional level as well as national – is of vital importance, and supporting investigative and political journalism. The lack of local political reporting (except some by television, and citizen journalists), and the obvious concerns for their livelihood or safety of even fairly low key independent journalists, hinder the ability to inform the public.

There are two parts of the four reform priorities set out that I am continually uneasy about:
“We must remain focussed on fundamental reforms: first, reform of the judiciary; second, a well-designed privatisation programme; third, legislation to dismantle monopolies; and, fourth, reforms to media ownership that ensure a free and fair press.”

Judges. I’ve met many Ukrainian judges, in many places and they strike me as being as professional, educated and independent as judges I’ve met in Western Europe (if rather younger than many of the judges in the UK). Of course I haven’t seen them in cases, and have only met briefly, but I’ve been impressed by the regional, city and town judges that I’ve met. As one judge said to me four years ago, people criticise judges but they don’t usually criticise the judge in a case that they are in, or a judge that they know personally. I don’t know the judges at national or Kyiv level who have been often embroilled in controversy – and heavely criticised by Maidan and civil society activists and reformers. But the principle of judicial independence is something that should not be lightly tampered with.

Secondly, this statement talks about a “well-designed privatisation programme.” That is better than the gung ho usually American and London American backed think tanks who seem to think privatisation is an end in itself. There are only practical reasons in favour of or against state ownership or privatisation of utilities and monopolies for example. Being done on ideological grounds is a bad reason. Being done badly will discredit the reform process in Ukraine and set it back.

Nearly every ordinary person I met in Ukraine was most concerned about the cost of utilities, the poor quality / cost of health care, lack of good job opportunities at home for skilled workers and professionals with higher education, and they wanted the War to end. No Ukrainian President can wave a magic wand to solve the first or the last. Only Putin / the Russian State or Army can end the last. On the former at least (as I’ve been arguing for years) there is now big investment into renewable energy in Ukraine, and an emphasis on energy efficiency (much of the latter backed by aid from foreign taxpayers). New windows in very many schools that I visited was a very good start for the children and staff in them.

In Contact. ВКонтакте (V Kontakte).
I also posted it on the ‘Russian speaking’ social media VK (In Contact) which is still used by many in Ukraine, especially popular with Russian speaking young people, even though it has been restricted. Ukrainian government policy and communication fails to reach this audience especially, measures such as (quite reasonably) restricting Russian owned social media without preparing people for alternatives was a particular own goal. One that the new President, a first language Russian speaker like many in Eastern and Central and southern Ukraine, probably understands better than most.

Published by

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *