Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Foreign Policy Research Institute

tel. +38 (044) 287 52 58

The internal front of the struggle for the Ukrainian information space

On November 15, 2019, the head of the Ministry of culture, Volodymyr Borodiansky and his First Deputy, Anatoliy Maksymchuk presented the concept of the draft law "On countering disinformation". Representatives of the authority explained how they will legally ensure freedom of speech, protect journalists and information security of the country in it. It is currently expected that by the end of February 2020, the draft law will be finalized and submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers. And in March, the government will submit the document to the Verkhovna Rada. Given the majority of "Servant of the People" in Parliament, the probability of adoption of the law "On countering disinformation" is quite high.[1]

Immediately, this law provoked a wave of criticism among the Ukrainian media. In particular, On January 13, 2020, Oleg Voloshin on the air of the information and analytical project "The Magnificent Four" on the TV channel "ZIK" said that Ukraine does not need a law on media, and gave the example of the UK, where the state does not have the right to interfere in the activities of the mass media, unless it is an exceptional situation. In particular, there have been scandals in the past when certain media outlets used illegal wiretapping to obtain information. Only in this case, the MP stressed, the state and law enforcement agencies had the right to interfere. "No one has the right to determine what to read, listen to or watch instead of ordinary citizens. If the state assumes the appropriate function, it is, indeed, a totalitarian state" Oleg Voloshin said. The parliamentarian, speaking about unscrupulous persons who use the press credentials, stressed that it is impossible to regulate by law what should be regulated by political culture and integrity. In his opinion, the novelty of the media draft law will not solve such issues. He stressed that the authorities are actually interested in how to deprive TV channels of licenses without a court, etc.[2]

Also, during the round table on freedom of speech and safety of journalists in Ukraine, which was held in Strasbourg, journalist and presenter of TV channel "ZIK", Nadia Sass said that earlier the pressure on the Ukrainian media was selective, but the new government went further and is now trying to introduce criminal liability at the level of the law for journalists for the so-called disinformation.[3]

Actually, somewhat earlier, the General Producer of the TV channel "ZIK", Natalia Vlashchenko said that Ukraine has had an absolutely ruthless and cynical system for almost 30 years, which despises the people, including journalists. She said this during the parliamentary hearing "Safety of journalists' activity in Ukraine", which was broadcast by the TV channel "ZIK". "The problem is not only in journalists, not in restricting freedom of speech, not in trying to close channels, the problem is that for almost 30 years there has been an absolutely ruthless and cynical system in Ukraine that despises the people, including journalists. A system where politicians constantly and brazenly plunder the state budget, pharmacists counterfeit medicines and hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have died over the decades, judges and prosecutors cover up murderers and condemn the innocent" Vlashchenko said.

At the same time, Vlashchenko stressed that in general journalists and society  are disenfranchised, but noted that this situation can be changed: "Journalists are just as defenseless and disenfranchised as the whole disenfranchised society is. Today, the Presidential Council began its work (Council on Freedom of Speech and Protection of Journalists - ed.), let's see what it can do. But I want to say that there are hope and expectations, but changes and a new reality are possible only after we all unite. This also applies to our work."[4]

However, it is obvious to everyone that the ultimate goal of the Russian war against Ukraine remains unchanged - the dismantling or significant weakening of Ukrainian statehood. To achieve this goal, Moscow uses not only troops, special services and agents, but also "professional Ukrainians" from Crimea and neighboring Russia. Their task is not only to tell that Ukrainians and Russians represent "one people", but also to mitigate the consequences of the Kremlin's Ukrainophobia. Thus, the Kremlin-controlled authorities of the Peninsula and the pro-Russian organization "Ukrainian community of Crimea" announced the creation of a newspaper and TV program "to promote the Ukrainian language". The head of the "community", Anastasia Gridchina stated in a comment to "TASS" that before the annexation, the Ukrainian language was "imposed" on the Peninsula, and the Crimeans allegedly had a negative attitude to it. "It is very difficult to break the resentment to the Ukrainian language. We are now gradually trying to instill love for it, to show that it is not imposed, that you can listen and sing songs, because it is very melodic, you can read our Internet resource "Pereyaslav Council 2.0", which broadcasts in both Ukrainian and Russian languages"Anastasia Gridchina stated.

It should be noted that "Pereyaslav Council 2.0" is a propaganda publication, the editor of which is the head of the "Ukrainian community". According to experts, the creation and functioning of pseudo-Ukrainian media is one of the elements of the Kremlin's "Potemkin village" of interethnic well-being. For the international organizations, the Russian government creates a picture of alleged compliance with the right of Crimean Ukrainians to receive information in their native language. The need to "torpedo" the European public with such fakes is only one of the reasons why Russians need so-called Ukrainian media on the Peninsula.[5]

Therefore, since we have information war with Russia, there is a need to combat such disinformation on the internal front of this war. After all, channels that belong to Viktor Medvedchuk in camouflaged form traditionally store narratives of Russian propaganda and invite pseudo-experts on the air, which are actually transponders of the Kremlin's interests regarding the Ukrainian language, education, dual citizenship, NATO, etc. In addition, the initiative to create a Parliament (a pro-Russian lobby) to resolve the conflict in the Donbas without answering the question under what conditions to solve it adds fuel to the fire.  As is well known, the Chairman of the Political Council of the party "Opposition platform – For life", MP Viktor Medvedchuk creates an inter-parliamentary association "Ukraine-Russia-Germany-France", which builds its activities on the speculation of the "peace" narrative. It should also be added to the above that the association of the "fifth Kremlin column" and supporters of the oligarchic-kleptocratic regime, through the Ukrainian media controlled by them, launched an information attack on Zelensky in order to completely discredit him as President and Supreme Commander, which is also in the interests of Russia as an aggressor state.  That's why the adoption of the law "On countering disinformation" in the context of the Russian war, and at the same time, at the absence of martial law in Ukraine is an urgent necessity, since it concerns the protection of the state’s national security.