Myroslava Barchuk, presenter of the talk show Zvorotnyi Vidlik (Countdown from Ukrainian) on the TV channel UA: First, made a statement regarding harassment and control by the Office of the President. She called them "the first hints" to threaten the freedom of speech and the independence of the work of journalists. Subsequently, the Сhief Editor of the talk show Svoboda Slova by Savik Shuster (Freedom of Speech by Savik Shuster from Ukrainian) echoed her words. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s administration denied all accusations against them.
Barchuk pointed out that "the President’s Office has long and tightly controlled the presence of MPs from the Servant of the People faction during broadcasts".
"Candidates for broadcasts are agreed upon by Mykhailo Podoliak’s contact person in the OP. That's not news. Although I have more and more questions about the subjectivity of MPs, their personal position and dignity, and, after all, the principle of parliamentarism," she pointed out.
The TV presenter also noted that the administration of the Head of State "has recently been setting forth conditions for our editorial office and issuing ultimatums about the presence of "servants of the people" during broadcasts."
As an example, she cited a case when Liudmila Buimister had been invited to one of her programs instead of two proposed representatives of the party. This apparently angered the Office of the President that accused the program of not adhering to journalistic standards.
The head of the Radical Party, Oleh Liashko, stated that the current government "is very afraid of the truth and transparency."
"If independent media are destroyed in Ukraine, we will not know the truth about Zelenskyy's offshores and corruption and abuse of power, about the real state of affairs in the country. Therefore, I appeal to all other journalists not to be silent and inform the society about the facts of pressure and censorship. Ukrainians have the right to know the truth," he wrote.
Daria Tarasova, Editor-in-Chief of the talk show Svoboda Slova by Savik Shuster, also complained to the outlet Siogodni (Today) about harassment from the President's Office.
"It was under the previous government and continues under the current one. Both during the presidency of Yanukovych and under Poroshenko, the authorities have always tried to impose on us opponents who are comfortable for themselves and delegate to the broadcasts not those whom we would like to invite, but those whom it considered necessary. Despite the fact that now a new generation of politicians is in power in Ukraine, the methods of interaction with the media remain the same," she noted.
Tarasova stressed that the "servants", trying to protect Zelenskyy, are in fact doing him a "disservice"—"power beyond criticism inevitably becomes a dictatorship."
In turn, the Office of the President denies all accusations. The Head of the OP, Mykhailo Podoliak, stressed that representatives of the authorities regularly come to the program broadcasts of the various channels, including "Suspilne". Moreover, he assured that the editorial policy of any outlet or TV channel was "a key feature of society and the modern state."
"If one or another representative of the authorities sees during the broadcast of this or that project a consistent and stubborn imbalance of positions, a constant and obvious political bias of the presenters and the editorial board, then one can understand the extremely small desire of people to visit broadcasts of this particular project. The guests of the project may be annoyed by the imbalance and bias of the project’s authors," the Head of the OP added.
President Zelenskyy also voiced his position.
"In general, it looks strange that state television experiences pressure from the state. Did the MPs refuse? I think this is a hype. What do we have to do with it? We didn’t agree on anything. Moreover, with Suspilne. Deputies are free people, they decide to go there or not," he said at a briefing in Zolotonosha.
Context. On the eve of the People's Deputy Liudmila Buimister was expelled from the faction Servant of the People. Earlier, she did not support the faction’s decision on the law on oligarchs and the dismissal of Dmytro Razumkov from the post of Chairperson of the Verkhovna Rada. After that, David Arakhamia, the Chairperson of the faction Servant of the People, stated that Buimister should be excluded from the political force in terms of party discipline.