July 31, 2012

TVi and LB.UA Are Under Fire

The World Affairs' Alexander J. Motyl writes about the most recent government crack down on independent media: one, independent television station TVi and, two, independent internet news portal LB.ua (Levyi Bereg or Left River's Bank). Each story is interesting. But it's nothing new. Putin has already done it with NTV mass media group and there are many similar cases in other non-democratic countries. I think that the main issue is that civil society remains very apathetic to ongoing events.

LB.ua is under investigation for breaching confidentiality of state issues because the internet portal published personal text-message correspondence of MP Volodymyr Landik (Party of Regions - Luhanks). In a nutshell, their photographer snapped pictures of MP's cell phone screen while Mr. Landik was texting during the parliamentary session.  The correspondence relates to Mr. Landik's son who was videotaped beating a young girl up in a restaurant in Luhanks more than a year ago and subsequently imprisoned. The infamous video was made public on YouTube, Facebook, and other social networks. When the criminal charges were pressed against the LB.ua,  the chief editor Sonya Koshkina fled the country fearing for her life. The criminal charges are bogus. If someone has to be charged here, it must be Mr. Landik for wasting tax payers' money by doing personal business while he is in his public office.

TVi that is the only television station supporting the political opposition was pushing buttons of the Party of Regions for a long time. TVi was provoking the Party of Regions methodically. The last
straw in the conflict between TVi and the state authorities was a genius of political journalism, Mr. Portnikov. He did excellent job by raising public awareness about values of democracy and government embezzlement of power.The Party of Regions and its leader, President Viktor Yanukovych, took the bait. Now the Party of Regions' political capital is bleeding while the Yanukovych administration is cracking down on TVi with another bogus charges of tax evasion.

It's really nothing new or unexpected. If TVi or LB.ua really wanted to avoid the conflict, they could be based somewhere in Europe close to their partners like Voice of America and Radio Free Europe. They pushed buttons of the Party of Regions and Mr. Yanukovych effectively. The state authorities unleashed their fury by violating all norms of democratic society. Civil society, however, remains very apathetic to all events. In the light of the upcoming parliamentary elections, it is a bad signal to the opposition leaders.

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