They often find themselves in the centre of scandals, but broadcasts and publications with their participation collect a large number of views. By saying “they” we mean those who express an anti-Ukrainian position, prefer to deform reality and tell their own truth. However, this does not prevent individual journalists from continuing their work with such heroes. Opinion found out what motives a journalist has, whether it is worth inviting such interlocutors at all, what problems media workers might face, and who will bear responsibility for their views.

What principles to follow?

Maryna Bahrova, a member of the board of the international union of the “National Policy Institute”, giving her comments on this issue to Opinion, stressed that journalists should follow journalistic ethics, as well as the current legislation of Ukraine. Moreover, according to the expert, if the journalist knows in advance about the intention of the interlocutor to express anti-Ukrainian propaganda or to lie, such heroes should be avoided in the material.

“A journalist in his professional activities should follow norms of the Code of Ethics of the Ukrainian journalist, the Constitution and the current legislation regardless of the persons chosen by him for the next material.

If the supposed hero begins to engage in outright campaigning or propaganda, gives false information and anti-Ukrainian statements, then the journalist has the right to comment on his interlocutor. If a journalist knows that a person reports deliberately false information, then the journalist has the right to make some remarks. Of course, the one who makes such statements should bear responsibility for the anti-Ukrainian or false statements.

If a journalist knows in advance about the intentions of his interlocutor to express anti-Ukrainian propaganda, or about frank lies, then such interlocutors shouldn’t be invited. Such persons should not be given a platform. Because they act intentionally, they abuse the right to freedom of speech. The freedom of speech ends where people start to abuse it, namely, hostile propaganda, frank lies and various media manipulations. All this can be harmful for society and the state”, commented Maryna Bahrova.

However, the expert explains: a lot depends on the media employees themselves, their preparation for conversation, the ability to reveal the true intentions of the speaker. Especially today, when a country enters the pre-election period and the degree of anti-Ukrainian positions and lies can significantly increase.

“Many aspects of journalistic activity depend on journalists themselves. Journalists must know the positions of the interlocutors well beforehand the interview. Any anti-Ukrainian statements should be the subject of the study of Ukrainian special services. In this regard, some journalists are capable to professionally reveal the anti-Ukrainian intentions of the interlocutors to see whom we are dealing with. This activity of journalists is also useful for Ukrainian intelligence services. Now our country has entered the pre-election period. Therefore, now the degree of anti-Ukrainian, anti-state speeches and all lies will simply be overlooked, and journalists and society must be ready to do this”, says Bahrova.

Whether the presence of speakers with an anti-Ukrainian attitude is a betrayal of national interests?

Volodymyr Shovkoshytnyi, a writer, a public figure and a politician, is convinced that providing a platform to those who are about to express anti-state views is simply a criminal matter and a treason. The author explains: such games of “democracy” are possible when the democracy can defend itself.

“Only those media, which have an anti-state position, that is, a priori, have no right to operate in the state can take part in this criminal case. As for the last 7 thousand mankind did not come up with and did not create a better way to self-organize the life of the people, or, if it already has the state, the nation, as a national state.

Therefore, activities within its boundaries are not only oppositional to the authorities but oppositional to the state officials and together with them the relevant media – it is a clear betrayal of national interests and state treason. The game of “democracy” is appropriate where this democracy can defend itself. And to support the Moscow rag-tag during the war with Moscow – this is a primitive work of Judah’s silver. Remember how this character had finished?”, shared with Opinion the writer.

Such an opinion was supported by Anastasiia Shyrina, the founder of HelpSMI, a platform for communication of journalists and experts. According to her, we have no right to spit on the eyes of those, who paid for national ideals with personal happiness and life. In the opinion of the expert, censorship can be discussed in a large number of cases, but not in this actual one.

“I think, it’s a crime against the state and the entire Ukrainian people to invite to the air, take comments and simply give the opportunity to speak in the media to those who propagandize anti-Ukrainian ideas. Yes, the war opened eyes to many. Ukrainians band together, patriotism gained popularity. Even those who liked living in the Soviet Union came over Russia. As a nation, we have already paid too high price for these changes. More than ten thousand people died. The lives of their loved ones and relatives are broken forever. Forced elderly migrants will have to start building their lives from the beginning (again to raise funds for housing, to look for a new job or to start their own projects). All of these – the sacrifices that we, Ukrainians, deliberately made in order to preserve independence. “In your own house, there is your own truth, and power and will”, Taras Shevchenko said. Victims are lived up. But you can not forget about them. One can not spit in the eyes of those, who paid for national ideals by personal happiness. You can talk about censorship in many cases, but not in this actual one.

Ukrainian mass media, which allow frank anti-Ukrainians promoting, are centres of evil and betrayal, which should be eradicated, without hesitation. The only thing to be taken care of in this approach is the grounds for influential pro-Ukrainian media, which in theory may be forced to publish shameful material and then will be closed as if justified. In this case, we must look at the media in general, in retrospect. What do the media usually promote? What are the ideals and values? Who was given the floor before? If the media has a good reputation, then one shameful publication may be the most common ground on the part of those who benefit from it”, shared Anastasiia Shyrina.

The platform set up by the speaker ensures constant communication between journalists and experts: media staff creates information requests, and experts comment on a particular issue. However, Shyrina emphasizes, that those who are trying to promote anti-state ideas and views have no place in the service.

“On the  HelpSMI platform, which I founded last year, chatting between media representatives and potential guests of the broadcasts takes place daily. The service is open to all media and experts with different thoughts. But we will ask journalists to report cases when one of the experts suggests publishing an anti-Ukrainian opinion – we do not have a place for such a people. The same applies to mass-media, which create requests of treacherous character”, explained the founder of the platform.

Not anti-Ukrainian sayings, but an alternative opinion?

Denys Zamrii, a media expert and deputy director of the UkrteleradioPressinstitute, is convinced that media representatives must submit different opinions in their materials, even if one of the speakers expresses anti-Ukrainian attitude. According to the expert, for any anti-state view, a counterweight just had to be found, and every lie should be exposed and the truth should be demonstrated.

“A journalist is required to submit information honestly, without distortion, regardless of how he relates to the interviewee. And mass media, if they claim to be objective and not a certain political force, should submit different opinions, let the bearers of these opinions express an anti-Ukrainian position. Especially since the right to freedom of thought and speech, to the free expression of their views and convictions is assigned in the thirty-fourth article of the Constitution of Ukraine.

So, no matter how high the ideals of those, who are trying to ban a number of pro-Russian leaders – these actions are wrong. I also want to remind you that in Russia Husinskyi was deprived of the NTV and other opposition media were also selected in Russia, guided by high ideals, so that the oligarchs did not influence the authorities, so that terrorists could not see them on TV how special forces work, etc. What’s left after this is what we see today. Do we want the same country? If not, we have no right to press the freedom of speech and freedom of expression. And if someone is lying or distorting reality, we just have to answer this lie. If someone carries anti-Ukrainian ideas, we must oppose them to the patriotic ones. And prohibitions did not lead to anything good in the media and will not lead. Moreover, today forbidding something is just stupid. For example, Vkontakte was recently banned, and what? They are still at the top. And what was the reason for it to be forbidden?”, mentioned Denys in comments for Opinion.

What problems do the media face in such situations?

At the beginning of this year, Opinion already asked the opinion of experts on whether to give a word to odious politicians. Then Serhii Rachynskyi, a media analyst at the Institute of Democracy named after Pylyp Orlyk, explained that journalists should primarily follow the interests of the audience, correctly understanding the priorities and building conversations in a way to get unique and useful information. At the same time, the media analyst told about the serious problems that journalists face in their work. In particular, the expert stressed, that any politician sooner or later becomes odious.

“Regarding the provision of the air or the platform to politicians, more or less odious, it is important to be guided by the interests of the audience. If the journalist is attentive to his audience and understands its priorities, then he will be able to pick up the interlocutor or hero of the material, as well as build a conversation with him in such a way as to obtain unique or useful information for readers (listeners). But here the media are facing two very serious problems.

First of all, the problem of Ukrainian media is that they are not interested in the audience, trying to work on “traffic” or rating. These are the consequences of the general media problem in conditions of total dominance of the state in the markets and the low economic activity of people who simply do not need the quality of journalism. In such circumstances, heroes are chosen according to their scandal, the ability to generate clicks and conversions from news aggregators, or readiness to play the show on the air. Often, it’s just about commercial “placement.” Secondly, it is important to understand, that the odiousness of politicians is a characteristic of them. Each of them sooner or later becomes odious. As a rule, when replaced by other politicians.

The main problem is that we consider communication with politicians unable to substantiate, detach analysis or assessments of certain phenomena or events. They are part of the political system and, accordingly, follow political interests, which in most cases do not coincide with the interests of the population or are clear propaganda. Policies are also the area where the biggest part of all fake news and events is generated, and therefore information from politics almost never simplifies understanding of a particular problem but is a simple self-promotion.

All this leads to a situation, where instead of telling us about the events media tells us about the reaction of certain politicians or bosses to this event, or a statement or just an intention of a political figure becomes the event. All this reduces the informational value of the material”, Serhii Rachinskyi thinks.

Who can answer for the expressed opinion before the law?

Tetiana Perepetkevych, a lawyer, explained that in reality, anti-Ukrainian statements and lies can be regarded as phenomena and factors that pose a danger to the vital interests of the country. Under such circumstances, problems with the law may arise, first of all, for the journalist, because his word is most often the main one. However, the expert emphasizes, that it is possible to bring to justice those who actually expressed anti-state position and even owners of mass media.

The Law of Ukraine “On the main means of ensuring cyber security of Ukraine” states, that such national electronic information resources (hereinafter referred  as “national information resources”) are systematic electronic information resources that contain information regardless of the type, content, form, time and place of its creation (including public information, state information resources and other information) designed to meet the vital social needs of a citizen, person, society and the state. Electronic information resources mean any information created, written, processed or stored in digital or another non-material form by means of electronic, magnetic, electromagnetic, optical, technical, software or other means. That is, television, sites are also part of national information resources.

National interests include the vital material, intellectual and spiritual values of the Ukrainian people as the bearer of sovereignty and the only source of power in Ukraine, the defining needs of society and the state, the realization of which is guaranteed by the state sovereignty of Ukraine and its progressive development, in accordance with the Law of Ukraine “On the Fundamentals of National security of Ukraine”. Threats to National Security The Law of Ukraine “On the Fundamentals of National Security of Ukraine” defines both existing and potentially possible phenomena and factors that endanger the vital national interests of Ukraine.

Obviously, anti-Ukrainian statements and lies against journalistic standards and the interests of the audience can be regarded as existing and potentially possible phenomena and factors, that pose a threat to Ukraine’s vital national interests. Therefore, there can be no talk with an “undesirable” hero, because it will clearly contradict and endanger the vital national interests of Ukraine. In such circumstances, a journalist may face a criminal case, making a choice for an odious person. The realization that the criminal responsibility for the relevant actions always depends on the journalist whose word is usually the last and most important. Of course, it is possible to bring to justice a person who through the media, for example, expressed anti-Ukrainian position and can bear responsibility as the author of the idea, journalist and the owner of the media. And in the case of limiting the access of such persons to the media, this will not look like censorship, because the conditions of a special state are in force in the country. Therefore, in such cases it is really worth abandoning the comments and thoughts of one or another person who is striking on the vital national interests of Ukraine”, explained the lawyer to Opinion.

Text by Dmytro Zhuravel

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