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We Once Again Need Movement to Protect Journalists’ Rights to Work Honestly

January 3 “Analysing the prospects we face over the next two years – presidential, parliamentary and local elections – one needs to admit that any potential exploiter of the media resource will be able “to penetrate” anywhere possible in order to influence or rig the results and get maximum benefits,” said Otar Dovzhenko of Detector Media in his article “You are Not Alone. Or How to Protect the Profession,” in which he promoted the idea of establishing a new journalistic movement. 

“I will dare to assume that the majority of journalists who work in subsidized media outlets or the outlets that depend on their media owners are not nihilists, cynical workers with no ethics nor morals, who are indifferent to professional standards and their own reputation,” he wrote. “Many of them seek self-justification and self-complacency in a situation where they are required to ignore or violate standards. Also, many of them do not oppose the fear of unemployment, but there are other reasons: ignorance and misunderstanding of the ways and purposes of resistance, condemnation and moral pressure from colleagues, lack of support and protection.”

There exist a number of NGOs offering legal advice and legal support to journalists whose rights are violated by the employer, Dovzhenko continued. But such conflicts do not always reach the courts, or can be proven in the courts. Many journalists are not even regular staffers of the media, but work on a contract basis that the employer can cancel at any time, he added.

“The most effective protector of journalistic interests in situations of conflict with the leaders and owners was, it seems to me, the movement we once called “Stop Censorship!”, Dovzhenko claimed. “It included civil society organizations, individual activists, lawyers, parliamentary lobbyists and even individual politicians. At various levels, from non-public mediation to a mass advocacy campaign, the movement has repeatedly managed to help journalists in the days of [Viktor] Yanukovych, when media fell under virtually pervasive pressure. Perhaps, we were too early to declare the movement’s mission, as well as its life cycle, complete.”

“Today, it is high time for us to see an organization or an informal community in Ukraine that will be ready to support journalists in various ways – any journalist, not just those who sign something, are officially registered and pay membership fees – to protect in their desire to work honestly and in line with standards. An organization without any political strings, which can be accessed by a person from any media, regardless of who and in what way this media “likes” or “hates”. Who will be able to send any journalist willing to work in line with standards, the signal is: “you are not alone”, Dovzhenko wrote.

The media and media expert community today find themselves even more atomized than 10 years ago, while their individual parts are at stages of war with each other, including on a political basis. But the events of 10 years ago should teach us all that it is better to unite in the face of distress than wait until misfortune strikes, Dovzhenko concluded.

PS from Detector Media: Otar Dovzhenko, the author of the article, has actually described all the prerequisites that have matured in Ukraine to create a new journalistic movement. We have to inform that at the end of last year an informal meeting of the initiative group on the creation of such a movement has already taken place. In the near future, the initiative group will come out with a public statement about the goals, objectives and principles, which will be merged into the informal media community.

More on Detector Media in Ukrainian.