The Listening Post

Ukraine: Divided country, divided media?

Listening Post examines the issues behind the global news coverage of Kiev’s Euromaidan protests.

Despite the use of force against journalists as well as protesters, for a story that symbolises the way Ukraine straddles two political worlds, the Euromaidan movement in Kiev has not been marked by the kind of media divide that might have been expected.

Ukrainians are well accustomed to their state-run media reflecting the shifting positions of President Viktor Yanukovych and private outlets have not compromised their credibility with either pro- or anti-protest biases. In fact, the bigger media story has come not from within Ukraine but from across the country’s eastern frontier.

Russian media has portrayed the protesters as western-backed stooges with questionable motives (and poor personal hygiene); smear tactics similar to those used by Russian President Vladimir Putin when Moscow civil society rose up against him in 2012.

Foreign reporters have also been guilty of seeing the story through lenses of their own making. When protesters toppled a statue of Lenin, obsolete analogies were too tempting not to resurrect.

Talking us through the issues behind the news coverage of the Maidan protests are: Boris Sachalko, the presenter for STV (Ukraine); Nataliya Gumenyuk, the director of Ukraine’s Hromadske TV; Andriy Kulakov, the programme director with Internews; Russia Today’s Peter Lavelle; and Andrew Wilson, the author of The Ukrainians: Unexpected Nation.

In this week’s Newsbytes: After executing his uncle, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has him erased from all internet archives; another journalist shot and killed in Iraq, this time a female presenter for a US sponsored satellite channel; and the NSA pushes back against bad press with its own media outreach to CBS ’60 Minutes’, though the results left many unconvinced.

This week’s feature: TV audiences around the world would expect that live coverage of a train ride, seven hours of it, might contain some sort of drama – a hostage crisis, a pending collision with another train, or even just a celebrity on board – but not in Norway.

A few years back, the country’s public TV channel, NRK, broadcast such a journey to a surprisingly receptive audience. It spawned a new kind of reality television, one that is breaking all the rules of TV engagement – no storyline, no script, no drama, no climax – and if it sounds boring, that is because it is. The Listening Post’s Marcela Pizarro went to Oslo to find out why Norwegians are tuning in to Slow TV.

Our last web video of the week for 2013 is on the subject of surveillance. It seems fitting to marry the festive season with what, for us, was the biggest story of the year. It comes courtesy of the American Civil Liberties Union whose Santa-suited spooks may not be as effective as the NSA analysts working at Fort Meade but their absurd attempts at tracking emails and phone calls do drive a point home – “The NSA is Coming to Town”.


Listening Post  can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0830, 1930; Sunday: 1430; Monday: 0430. 

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