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What with freedom of speach in Donbas? Report DII

What with freedom of speach in Donbas? Report DII

TV remains the main source of information in the Donbas. In the grey zone and on the occupied territories this is Russian TV and the separatist one, both of them may be watched freely. The coverage is about 2 million people. On the liberated territory, there is Ukrainian TV and satellite TV with Russian content. The coverage is about 2 million people more.

Both Russian and Ukrainian TV often resort to distortion of the truth and mixing truth and fiction which misleads both pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian viewers. As a result, mass media are less trusted in general.

The majority of our viewers prefer Russian mass media as they use emotions (journalism based on opinions, not facts) and the Russian language.

If we want to be trusted, we should trust ourselves. This is why we conduct a yearly audit during  Donbas Media Forum and synchronize our watches according to the standards, language of peace and level of conflicts in media world. This year we are going to hold this Forum in the Donbas, we are now discussing the venue, it may be either Mariupol or Kramatorsk. 300 journalists from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions are to visit it, including the ones from the occupied territory and including those who will use our “Second Chance” programme which we declared for those who work for separatist mass media.

If to go back to the map of the Donbas media, it can be seen that the idea of “Russian world” is currently being realized on the occupied territory with the help of 22 weekly newspapers, 5 “republican” channels and 4 radio stations. There are 10 weekly analytical TV talk shows whih propagate the ideas of the “Russian world” on the Donbas territory.

There are practically no alternatives to regional content for the occupied districts on the part of those territories of the Donbas which are controlled by Ukraine. The only exception is “Talk to Donbas”; this talk show reflects interests of the regional audience and is produced by “Donbas Public TV”. There are no similar products which would be broadcast accross the whole region; they are substituted by Ukrainian or Russian TV content.

Besides this, on the Ukrainian part of the Donbas, all TV channels are disunited and are not oriented to one unifying centre (Donetsk used to be this centre but it is not any more whereas Kyiv is too far away and to vague for the majority). The Donbas TV channels cover only their localities, for example, MTV and Sygma in Mariupol, Kapri in Krasnoarmiysk, SAT PLUS in Slovyansk ans so on. There is a huge amount of ordered materials which are not marked with the words “advertisement” or “commercial”. This repels consumers of the content.

There are two channels with regional coverage — Rinat Akhmetov's TPK Donbas and Donetsk regional state TV and radio company which is a branch of Public Broadcast. The products under the brand of Donbas Public TV, which is administered by «Donetsk Institute of Information», are also broadcast on this frequency.

Today our NGO is a kind of content manufacturer for:

1) regional state TV and radio company; we produce videos under the logo of Donbas Public TV

2) for the newspaper which is distributed at checkpoints among those who go to Donetsk; we write texts for «News of Donbas» and «Donetsk Truth» sites


3) for the radio which is to broadcast on the territory of occupid Donetsk: we produce a weekly audio program

4) we have been compiling our own archive with socio-economic development data of the occupied regions  since 2014 (it can be seen on donbasleaks site).

Social networks where we have hundreds of thousands of subscribers were a responce to blocking of our sites.

This year we are going to improve the quality of our own video content and the one of the regional state TV and radio company, and to improve the technical basis of «Donbas Public TV» with the help of
1) opening and administering by NGO «Donbas Public TV» studios in Mariupol and Kramatorsk
2) increasing of the number of issues of analytical products; with this purpose, «Donetsk Institute of Information» is turning into an analytical center and training platform for novice journalists.

Thus, the process of separating two NGOs — «Donetsk Institute of Information» and «Donbas Public TV» - as legal persons will be completed.

Due to the fact that we cover the occupied part of the Donbas (via video and the newpaper), the Ukrainian part of it (via the regional state TV and radio company) as well as the so-called «bigger Ukraine» (via 19 partner-companies that broadcast «Donbas Public TV» content), our audience amounts to 4.5 million Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine, IDPs as well those who stayed on the occupied territory or are constantly migrating on the problematic territory.

We are oriented not only to the inner market, but also to the outer one via exchanging content with Russian-speaking  editorial offices from the former USSR and Eastern Europe. This pattern is most of all suitable for local MM in the Donbas. It may help them leave the information space of Moscow and get closer to such cities as Riga, Prague, Warsaw, and Kyiv which may become centers of attraction for the region with the population of 5 million.

The main aim of our content is reconciliation and activation of national dialogue, decrease of the level of stigmatization in media, establishment of links between media, local authorities, and activists; development of effective communication between the residents of the Donbas and the institutes of civil society on the basis of state (public) media. These are also the aims of 2016 Donbas Media Forum, and due to that our NGO is the organizer of it.

Oleksiy Matsuka

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