Hate speech in Donbass printed media and the TV (monitoring)

Hate speech in Donbass printed media and the TV (monitoring)


Media environment of the Donetsk region has undergone transformation and changes as a result of hostilities and the actual division of the region into 2 parts, which has led to a corresponding division of mass media.

On the territory controlled by Ukrainian government the professional media sphere is formed in two assumed centres (instead of one, regional). Formally, the administrative centre, where the regional administration is located, is the city of Kramatorsk, but many regional institutions are located in Mariupol, the second largest city in the Donetsk region after Donetsk which is not under control of Ukrainian government. In particular, regional department of the Security Service of Ukraine and the National Police of Ukraine are located in this city.

At the same time, there are media on uncontrolled territory of the Donetsk region. They are diverse and are represented by many editions, television channels and web-sites. Some of them are established by the Ministry of Information of “DPR” organization, which directly censors the materials of many media of the Donetsk region part which is not controlled by Ukrainian government.

The part of the regional media, working on the territory under the Ukrainian control is definitely under the political influence of their founders. A large part of them are connected with the political quarters representatives and business groups who have their own vision of ways to stop the conflict. This vision does not coincide with the position of government officials and political parties in some issues. When it comes to covering issues related to the conflict, the political position of the media owner may also affect the editorial policy of the printed edition.

Ukrainian regional and “DPR” media environment are not just parallel; they often represent the views and the assessments of just one of the parties of the conflict - the party of the side where they actually belong and work on. The pressure, threats and blatant power game on the part of Russia-backed representatives of self-proclaimed government, made it impossible for Ukrainian journalists to work on the uncontrolled territory and significantly impeded the ability to obtain reliable information therefrom. Those journalists who have remained on the territory which is not under Ukrainian control and continue to fulfil their professional duties are also under pressure. The censorship introduced there and the requirement of 100% loyalty to the self-proclaimed authorities turned local journalism in Donetsk into propaganda, changed the quality of journalistic materials whose purpose is not to inform but to influence public opinion.

In the environment of hostilities, this situation leads media to the use of hate speech. The phenomenon is detected in the Russian, “DPR” and sometimes in the Ukrainian media. Hate speech does not contribute to stopping the conflict and overcoming its consequences and the search for ways of understanding between the parties.

“Donetsk Institute of Information” conducted a research in order to study this phenomenon range in the print media of the Donetsk region on both sides of demarcation line and found out:

  • hate speech is used in almost 20% of the evening newscast items on TV channels controlled by the “DPR” organization. In the newscasts of TV channels of the Donetsk region territory controlled by Ukrainian government, no signs of hate speech are detected.  
  • According to the results of printed media research, controlled by «DPR», signs of hate speech are detected almost on 26% pages.  In the printed edited from the territory controlled by the government the hate speech is detected on  2% of pages.

Signs of hate speech are detected in the print media on both sides of the demarcation line. However, the monitored “DPR” public editions use this speech much more often. At present, these are just isolated cases on the territory controlled by Ukrainian government.

The absolute leader in using hate speech is Novorossiya edition. Its material is extremely saturated with words, which experts attributed to those who show signs of hate speech or hostility. The publications of the “DPR” organization claiming to have an “official” status use such speech much less and formally.

The limited use of hate speech from Ukrainian regional media may be a consequence of the journalists’ and editors’ position; while working on the conflict area, they are trying to use non-conflictual vocabulary. One more factor is the owners’ of these media influence and their vision of ways to stop the conflict. Trends in the limited use of hate speech in regional Ukrainian media in the Donetsk region may not correspond to the situation at the national level.

Hate speech in the Donetsk region printed media

There is no united administrative and economic centre around which regional editions could be formed. Naturally, city newspapers are more focused on local events than on regional ones.

Regional periodicals that have left Donetsk are experiencing difficulties due to a gap in connection with their traditional readership, a contraction of the advertising market, the lack of an extensive distribution system and the move-related problems. As a result, the circulations of these printed media have significantly decreased, and some newspapers stopped issuing (e.g. The Vecherniy Donetsk). On the contrary, with the support of the “DPR”’s Ministry of Information, the new editions with large circulations appeared on the uncontrolled territory.

In the course of the research, the contents of 4 large editions issued on the uncontrolled territory were processed: Novorossiya, Donetskoye Vremya (“Donetsk time”), Golos Respubliki (“Voice of the republic”), Donetskaya Respublika ("Donetsk republic").

The editions to study the content were taken of 3 weeks-time. Novorossiya, Donetskoye Vremya and Donetskaya Respublika are issued once in a week, and Golos Respubliki - 3 times, therefore 3 issues of this edition on each week of the study were processed.

When summarizing the research results, of 184 pages of the “DPR” editions which were taken and processed, only 131 pages contained the content suitable for research (without insertions, ads, crossword puzzles, horoscopes, television programs and other similar content).

According to the results of the research, it was found that, in general, 34 of the processed content contained publications with signs of hate speech, which is almost 26%.

Four printed media issued on the territory of the Donetsk region controlled by the government were taken: Donbass, Priazovskiy Rabochiy (“Azov Worker”), Donetskiye Novosti (“Donetsk News”) and Znamya Industrii (“Banner of Industry”). 3 issues of each edition were taken for the research.

The total number of pages is 228, 141 of which contained no ads. Signs of the hate speech were detected on 3 pages, which are 2.13%.

Media of an uncontrolled territory overview

Novorossiya: there is no information about the public edition circulation, but it can be estimated at 5 thousand copies. The newspaper is private. Its editor-in-chief Dmytro Dezortsev is a deputy of the “DPR” People's Council from the Free Donbass group (controlled by Pavlo Gubarev).

The materials of the newspaper are extremely rich in signs of hate speech - 59.26% of the pages processed. All scans of the studied issues contained signs of hate speech. Publications of this public edition stand out even against the other “DPR” editions, going beyond the boundaries of the “red tape” hate speech in the “DPR” militaries appeals, or in the statements of the organization leaders.

A typical method for this public edition is the use of mangled Ukrainian words: “indie-pendent1, “pantryotic power2, “not-dead-yet3 and extremely hostile statements regarding certain social and political groups of Ukrainian citizens: “Ukrainian monkeys in tuxedos”, “boasted heroes”, “consciouSS4, “jarheads5, “veteruns6,  and addressing the Ukrainian state as an institution – “a defective under-state”.

An example of the editorial in the March 23 issue scan, named “The clouds are gathering over the Dnieper”: “Recently, our Head has made a point that the Dill-land7 will be done in a couple of months. After reading this my soul rejoiced of course, but there is a question arising all at once: and what is the prerequisite for such a wonderful event?”

An example from the column “readers' letters”: “If only dills8 break out there, we will observe a wild slaughter. All Russians will be massacred...”

Donetskoye Vremya (“Donetsk Time”), the declared circulation is 8 thousand copies. The founder and publisher is “State Enterprise Republican Publishing House ‘Donbass’”. Editor-in-chief is Volodymyr Nikolayev. The public edition cover both socio-political and entertainment topics.

The publications are not so saturated with the hate speech as Novorossiya publications, but they are still numerous: 13.64% of the processed pages of the public edition contain such materials. The newspaper pays much attention to non-political issues. Usually the political-related publications bear the examples of hate speech signs.

Traditionally, the main subjects are accusations of Ukrainian authorities in launching “genocide”, “killing civilians” and in commitment to the ideals of Nazism. Such allegations taken separately may not bear signs of hate speech, but be a personal opinion, although in this case the use of semantic markers makes them the real signs of hate speech.

An example of the publication in the March 8 issue, named “Brute face of ‘Soloveyko’9 redoubt”: “Let the fascist bastards do not doubt: we will resist ... wooden stake and moldy crypt for the descendants of hit squads and police goons! That’s the appropriate place for the undead”.

Donetskaya Respublika newspaper is the official public edition of the pro-government civic movement “Donetsk Republic”, which is its founder. Editor-in-chief is Maksim Isayev. The circulation is 100 thousand copies. 33.33% of the processed pages of the public edition bear signs of hate speech.

The public edition is connected with the “DPR” authorities and has an official status, so in spite of the high saturation of its materials with signs of hate speech, for the most part, mostly templates are used here, which have become almost official in “DPR” for the last three years: “Ukrainian punishers”, “Neobanderist criminals10.

An example of the publication in the March 16 issue, named “War and Ecology”: "Ukrainian punishers with an enviable regularity shell DFS (Donetsk filter station) with artillery fire."

Golos Respubliki  (“The Voice of the Republic”) is the official public edition of the “DPR” organization, it publishes information on tenders. The founder is the “DPR” Ministry of Information, the publisher is the State Enterprise “Republican Publishing House ‘Donbass’”, editor-in-chief is Stanislav Shatalov.

The signs of hate speech were recorded only in the first issue, it can be attributed to the “official” hate speech. In 7.14% of the public edition pages, the signs of hate speech are detected.

Media of the territory controlled by Ukrainian government overview

For the research of the situation in the print media, 4 print editions in the Donetsk region territory controlled by Ukrainian government were processed. Two of them are ‘displaced newspapers’: Donbass  and Donetskiye Novosti (“Donetsk News”) and the other two are city newspapers of Mariupol and Kostyantynivka.

In total, 228 pages of the regional printed media were processed, the content of 141 of which was suitable for research (without insertions, ads, crossword puzzles, horoscopes, television programs and other similar content).

According to the results of the study, it was detected that, in general, 3 of them contained publications where hate speech was used, which was 2.13%.

The peculiarity of this region’s media is greater focus on the topics of assistance to the affected civilian population than attention to the hostilities.

Priazovsky Rabochiy (“Azov Worker”) - the Mariupol newspaper, which declares to have one of the largest circulations in the Donetsk region - more than 40 thousand copies. The founder of the public edition is “CJSC Gazeta ‘Priazovsky Rabochiy’” (controlled by Rinat Akhmetov ‘s “SCM” company). The editor-in-chief is Mykola Tokarskiy.

Mariupol is located close to the demarcation line, so the public edition pays some attention to the hostilities, but this, for the most part, is the ATO headquarters’ information. There is also political advertising.

An example of the publication in the section “ATO” in the March 17 issue, named “Shelling of Gnutovo outskirts”: “ ‘At 15:00 on Wednesday, as a result of militants shelling of the outskirts  of Gnutovo  village, 6 houses were damaged there’, the chairman of the Talakov's council Vyacheslav Salagov said yesterday morning.”

No signs of hate speech detected.

Znamya Industrii (“Banner of Industry”) is Kostyantynivka city newspaper. Its founder and publisher is “LLC Vozrozhdeniye Donbassa”. The editor is Genadiy Chubenko. Circulation is about 10 thousand copies.

The newspaper mostly focuses on local topics. During the study, hostilities issues were brought up in the context of a local resident death reports who participated in the anti-terrorist operation.

An example of the publication in the April 19 issue, the publication named “For Bravery” on the funeral of the killed: “Poems about the war sounded especially penetrating. Teachers, schoolchildren and Oleksandr Ponomaryov’s colleagues could hardly hold back tears.”

There are complementary materials related to some local officials.

An example of the complementary publication in the April 5 issue, named “Vladymyr Marynych: ‘Thanks to the veterans for the preservation of traditions’”: “It was with tears that the veterans remembered the Marynych’s words that he treated each of them as his own parents, and would continue to help them in problem solving”.

No signs of hate speech detected.

Donetskiye Novosti weekly newspaper (“Donetsk news”) is the regional periodical that has left Donetsk. The founder of the public edition is “Editorial office of the newspaper ‘Donetsk News’ Ltd.” The General Director is the editor-in-chief Rimma Fil. The claimed circulation is about 4500 copies. The actual owner of the public edition is Ukrainian billionaire Rinat Akhmetov.

The periodical publishes a lot of news and articles on the activities of the newspaper’s owner Rinat Akhmetov’s charity fund. The public edition editor Rimma Fil is at the same time the coordinator of the humanitarian centre of Akhmetov’s “Dopomozhemo” Foundation. Publications are devoted to the problems of the internally-displaced persons.

An example of the publication in the March 23 issue, named “Month of the Humanitarian Centre blocking”: “I want to address those who are on the Ukrainian territory. People, we are hostages here, and we have nowhere to go, my mother is bed-bound,” weeps out Gorlovka resident.

No signs of hate speech detected.

Donbass is a regional newspaper that has left Donetsk. The founder is “LLC Gazeta Donbass”. Editor-in-chief is Oleksandr Bryzh. The claimed circulation is about 3500 copies. The public edition more often than other media that were subjects of the research, publishes materials on the hostilities. The signs of hate speech have been detected here. In most cases, its source is not the journalist, but the publications characters or statements of the institutions which the newspaper publishes. In general, the signs of hate speech were detected at 7.69% of the pages of the public edition.

An example of the publication in the March 10 issue, named “Spring Aggravation and the Hague Advance”: “The rashists suffer from spring aggravation of the ‘Russian world’. Thrashing like crazy...” (head of Donetsk Regional military-civilian administration Pavlo Zhebrivskyi).

Hate speech on the Donetsk region television

There are 4 main TV channels claiming to be “republic-wide” and broadcasting twenty four-seven on the territory which is uncontrolled by the Ukrainian government. They are “Novorossiya”, “First Republican”, “Oplot”, and “Union”. All these channels are controlled by the “DPR”’s Ministry of Information.

Only 2 regional TV channels work on the controlled territory: the one of  the Public Joint Stock Company “National Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine” Branch “Donetsk Regional Directorate” which is broadcasted as “DoTeBe”, and also “Donbass” channel.

We studied the content of 2 television channels’ of the uncontrolled territory evening newscasts, and of the 2 channels working on the controlled territory. The newscasts of the third week of July were processed. Among the “DPR” TV channels the contents of the “First Republican”  and “Union” newscasts were studied.

It turned out that during this time, 119 news items appeared in newscasts of “DPR” TV channels. Of these, the signs of the hate speech were detected in 23 items, which is almost 20%. The vast majority of cases with hate speech use fell on the newscasts of “The First Republican”: 21 items of 23.

Meanwhile, in the newscasts of Ukrainian TV channels, 71 items were shown, where no signs of hate speech were detected.

If the ideological polarity of the television channels under research, natural in the environment of hostilities, is not taken into account, in many other respects they produce similar content.

The main difference is that “DPR” television channels are more inclined to use hate speech and devote much of the news to residents of the controlled Donbass territory, encouraging them to maintain social connections and receive social benefits from “DPR” (e.g. education or medical assistance). More than 20% of these TV channels’ items the so-called ‘programme for the reunion of the people of Donbass’ was mentioned, which the self-proclaimed power uses as a means of increasing loyalty of population of uncontrolled part of Donbass.

The extent to which this programme is being implemented in reality is difficult to assess, since the work of international organizations and the journalists reception are troublesome on the uncontrolled territory. However, the programme is promoted in every newscast during the specified period, which, in our opinion, once more indicates that “DPR” uses news releases not so much to inform the public, as to influence the public opinion.

Another peculiarity is that the “DPR” channels covered extraordinary events and protest actions which took place exclusively on the territory controlled by the Ukrainian government.

Television channels working on the territory controlled by the government paid minor attention to how the life on the uncontrolled territory looks like. Such news items were less than 3%. Only 2 of 72 items contained information on this topic, and only 1 was the mention of social services that the Ukrainian authorities may provide to the residents of the uncontrolled territory. This corresponds to almost 3% and 1% of the items respectively.

According to other indicators, TV channels news items were almost identical. Military operations, shelling and destruction are not given as much attention as one would expect. The information from “DPR” TV channels made 7% of those items, and it was 8% from TV channels of the other side of the demarcation line. “DPR” TV channels devoted 60% of their news items to social issues, and the Ukrainian ones - almost 65%.

Despite the economic downfall on both sides of the demarcation line, only 6% of the “DPR” news items and 6% of Ukrainian items were devoted to economic issues.

The political life has hardly been reflected in the Ukrainian TV channels news - it is devoted to only 3% of the plots. “DPR”, on the other side, focused on the topic more, 9%, but almost all of these news items were devoted to political events in the territory under control of the Ukrainian government, or international ones, with mostly critic of the Ukrainian authorities.

Protest actions were covered in almost 5% of the news items. The items of “DPR” TV channels, as before, covered protest actions that took place on the territory controlled by the Ukrainian government. The coverage of the emergency events was up to 13% of the items. The “DPR” TV channels described the events on the territory which is under the Ukrainian control. Such events as seizing a court building in Odessa, or a miners’ strike in the Luhansk region were covered.

An absolute majority of both kinds of TV channels’ items was about the events that took place on their side of the demarcation line. That is, up to 70% of the “DPR” TV channels’ news items covered the events that took place on the territory controlled by “DPR”. More than 80% of the Ukrainian regional TV channels’ news items covered the events that took place in the territory controlled by the government.

21% of the “DPR” news items and 15% of the Ukrainian TV channels news items covered the events in other regions of Ukraine. “DPR” television channels did not devote so much news items to the events in Russian Federation, as one might expect before the research began. Despite the fact that “DPR”  is in fact under control of Russia and the authorities of “DPR” constantly emphasize their intentions to “integrate” into the state, there were only 4% of the items about the events in Russia on local TV channels. 3% of the items were devoted to other international topics. Ukrainian television channels in Donetsk region generally ignore news from Russia and international topics.

“DPR” TV channels

“First Republican” is the former regional TV channel of the State TV and radio company, captured by “DPR” in the spring of 2014. Part of the state television channel staff went to the city of Kramatorsk, which is under the Ukrainian control, and went on working under the brand “DoTeBe”.

The newscasts of the “First Republican” TV channel are saturated with hate speech. Such items make for up to 31%. In all cases, the source of hate speech is journalists. Typical is the phrase “Ukrainian hit squads” related to the representatives of the Ukrainian army and the use of the term “Indie-pendent”1 in relation to the Ukrainian state. “DPR” representatives and Russian ultra-right circles use this word to deliberately change its natural Ukrainian phonetics to underscore their humiliating attitude towards the Ukrainian statehood and Ukrainian citizens who, according to Russian radicals, do not have traditions, skills and abilities to build their own state and have to be under the control of Russia.

An example of the newscast of July 17, direct speech of the presenter: “Three years ago, ‘Boeing 777’ was shot down by the Ukrainian punishers. All 298 passengers on board were killed” (this statement does not correspond to the preliminary findings of the international commission, according to which the airplane was shot down with the help of the Buk missile system, which entered the territory of Ukraine from the territory of the Russian Federation).

Soviet propaganda had used the word “punishers” (or “hit squads”) for decades to portray the crimes of the occupation authorities during the Second World War. This definition dehumanizes the enemy.

“Union” is a private regional TV channel that had worked in Donetsk before the hostilities began. It was taken under “DPR” control in the summer of 2014. Unlike the “First Republican”  the “Union” almost does not use hate speech. Such items are only 4% (2 items). This TV channel representative was the source of hate speech in just one news item, and another time its source was the self-proclaimed power representative.

The July 17 newscast example: the head of “DPR” administration of the city of Shakhtarsk Oleksii Shvydkyi said: “We appeal to the Joint investigative team with the request to objectively investigate the circumstances of the incident. Kyiv junta must answer for every one who died on Donbass territory”.

Regional Ukrainian TV channels

“DoTebe” TV channel is the only state (now - public) regional television channel. Despite this, the hostilities topic was covered in only 1 news item. During the period of  this TV channel newscasts content research, there was no item about life on the uncontrolled territory, but only one item, which mentioned the social services available to residents of the uncontrolled territory. Although representatives of the official Ukrainian authorities have repeatedly emphasized the need for reintegration of the uncontrolled territories.

No signs of hate speech detected.

“Donbass” TV channel is a private television channel owned by Ukrainian businessman Rinat Akhmetov. In the newscasts of this channel, no signs of hate speech are detected. Many of the TV channel's news items cover the work of Akhmetov's charitable foundation - almost 14% (the Foundation's activities are aimed at helping residents of Donbass who suffered of the hostilities). 10% of the items cover the activities of Akhmetov’s enterprises. Some coverage has signs of customized materials (“hit pieces”).

An example of the newscast of July 17, a journalist saying: “4 projects in the field of education are implemented this year in Druzhkovka. The company “Vesco” (owned by Akhmetov), together with the city council, decided the winners of the “Hand-made city” competition. It was held within the framework of the company's social partnership with the city authorities’ programme”.

No signs of hate speech detected.


Now the possibilities for the Ukrainian civil society to influence the large media controlled by the “DPR” to reduce the use of hate speech are limited. In our opinion, under such circumstances it is important for the media to pay more attention to the coverage of events in the uncontrolled area through the human dimension (the main news consumer is an ordinary person, not the carrier of ideological or other views), in order to overcome the conflict consequences and preserve communication between people. Another recommendation is to deliberately restrict the use of vocabulary, which leads to an escalation of the conflict, in publications and journalistic materials. On the other hand, there is an urgent need to inform residents of uncontrolled districts about their rights and the social services provided by the Ukrainian authorities, which will be a demonstration of the media benefits for people who appeared in a difficult situation.

The research was prepared by the “DPR” public organization with the support of the German non-profit MiST organization.

Donetskaya Respublika (“Donetsk republic”) newspaper: 09/03/2017 №9 (99), 16/03/2017 №10 (100), 23/03/2017 №11 (101)

Donetskoye Vremya (“Donetsk time”) newspaper: 08/03/2017 №9 (74), 15/03/2017 №10 (74), 22/03/2017 №11 (76)

Novorossiya newspaper: 9/03/2017 №130, 16/03/2017 №131, 23/03/2017 №132

Golos Respubliki (“Voice of the Republic”) newspaper: 07/03/2017 №16 (107), 14/03/2017 №18 (109), 14/03/2017 №20 (111)

Donbass newspaper: 10/03/2017 №10 (22780), 17/03/2017 №11 (22781), 24/03/2017 №12 (22782)

Priazovskiy Rabochiy (“Azov Worker”) newspaper: 10/03/2017 №27 (20324), 17/03/2017. №30 (20327), 24/03/2017. №33 (20330)

Znamya Industrii (“Banner of Industry”) magazine. 05/04/2017 №14 (14971), 12/04/2017 №15 (14972), 19/04/2017 №16 (14973)

Donetskiye Novosti (“Donetsk News”) newspaper: 09/03/2017 №10 (1280), 16/03/2017 №11 (1281), 23/03/2017 №12 (1282)

“First Republican” channel, evening newscasts: 17/07/2017, 19/07/2017, 20/07/2017, 21/07/2017, 24/07/2017

“Union” channel, evening newscasts: 17/07/2017, 19/07/2017, 20/07/2017, 21/07/2017, 22/07/2017

“Do Tebe” channel, evening newscasts:  17/07/2017, 18/07/2017, 19/07/2017, 20/07/2017, 21/07/2017

“Donbass” channel, evening newscasts:  17/07/2017, 18/07/2017, 19/07/2017, 20/07/2017, 21/07/2017


1 “Indie-pendent” (independent; in Ukrainian: “самостійна” - “samostiyna”)

2 “Pantriotic government” (patriotic government; in Ukr.: “патріотична влада” - “patriotychna vlada”)

3 “Not-dead-yet" (mocking reference to the line of the Ukrainian anthem “Ukraine is not dead yet”; in Ukr.: “щеневмерлики” – “schenevmerlyky”)

4 “ConsciouSS” (conscious citizens; in Ukr.: “свідомі” – “svidomi”)

5 “Jarheads” (wearing pans on their heads, mocking reference to Ukrainian Maidan where people jokingly protected their heads against securities truncheons; in Ukr.: “кастрюлеголові” – “kastrulegolovi”)

6 “Veteruns” (veterans; in Ukr.: “витірани” – “vytyrany”)

7 “Dill-land” (mangled name of the Ukrainian state implying that its population are “dills” - “ukropy”. This nickname sounds similar to “Ukrainians”; in Ukr.: “Укропія” – “Ukropia”)

8 “Dill” (in Ukr.: “укропи” – “ukropy”, supra note7)

9 “Soloveyko” (nightingale; here: an implication to “Nachtigal”, battalion of UPA during the WWII; in Ukr.: “Соловейко”)

10 “Neobanderist criminals” (an implication to Stepan Bandera, Ukrainian nationalist of the WWII times)