Ukraine

The News of Eastern Europe: Brought to You by Russia

For ten years, the Russian government has built media across eastern Europe. They are becoming a fearsome player in the region’s media market.
 
Last March, far-right British activist Jim Dowson told the Guardian that the website Patriotic News Agency, which he had launched in July 2016 to spread pro-Trump propaganda, has bases in Hungary and Serbia. He said that other such platforms are also based there.
 

Media Diet in Ukraine: Russian Social Media and Oligarch-Owned TV

Ukrainians trust Russian media less and are more aware than ever of who controls their local media. However, they still embrace Russian social networks and watch oligarchs-owned television.
 
In February 2015, I interviewed a top coastguard officer in the Ukrainian city Geniches’k, which is very close to the Russia-annexed Crimea. Before saying goodbye, he gave me his e-mail address to keep in touch. I was surprised when I saw that his electronic mailbox was registered on Mail.ru, one of the leading Russian email services.
 
He noticed my surprise and said: “Yes, yes, I know that it [the email address] should be changed, I’ll do it at some point.”
 
This happened after the annexation of Crimea by Russia, the hottest stage of the war in eastern Ukraine, and in spite of repeated appeals by the Security Service of Ukraine known as SBU since spring 2014 to refrain from using Russian social networks and online services. One of the reasons is that strict anti-terrorist laws in Russia allow local security institutions to get access to a trove of online information. If you use one of the Russian internet services and platforms, it’s likely that some of the authorities in Russia can see part of what you share or do online. It’s thus surprising that even the Ukrainian military ignores this request.
 
However, not only troops are doing this - many people in Ukraine still resort to Russian online services.

The Rise of Quality Propaganda in Ukraine: The Story of a Photo

A photo taken by an amateur photographer in the Ukrainian village of Shyrokyne reignites the debate on journalism in conflicted areas: should we stick to the facts or lie?
 
A huge explosion in the background, two soldiers supporting their wounded friend in the foreground, an empty baby carriage in the left corner near the ruins of someone’s house; and contrasting to this dramatic picture you have the blue summer sky of eastern Ukraine.
 
This impressive photo has become popular as an illustration of the failed ceasefire in the Ukrainian village of Shyrokyne where the Ukrainian army is constantly fighting with the pro-Russian separatists. Taken in June 2016, this photo was shared thousand of times by internet users. It was republished by many media and lobby group leaders such as renowned activists and war volunteers. The war volunteers are people who supply goods to the Ukrainian army. They have become very influential in society since the start of the war in 2014.
 
Taken by Dmytro Muravsky, a Ukrainian volunteer and former advisor to the defense ministry, this photo has also attracted heavy criticism from a group of Ukrainian photographers who work for Ukrainian and international media. They slammed Mr Muravsky in a public letter, accusing him of staging the picture.
 

Did Ukraine’s Upstart Public Broadcaster Undermine National Interests?

The lack of definitive rules of engagement and professional standards for Ukrainian public media covering a quintessential topic of national interest – the ongoing war against Russian-backed separatists – also raises questions of self-censorship.
 
Among the heralded achievements of the Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity, the mass protests in 2014 that led to the ousting of Ukraine’s then president Viktor Yanukovych, was the emergence of two public broadcasters.
 
However, neither of them, in fact, fits the classic concept of the public media. One was created by journalists as a bottom-up initiative, and is still in the process of reforming. The other is being built by the government on the structure of the Ukrainian state TV and radio corporation. Both still fall short of international standards.
 

Internet Providers in Eastern Europe and Former Soviet Union: Non-Transparent, Dubious, Politically Linked

The Internet has become the new heaven for unheard voices, new forms of commerce and limitless communication across eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. But who owns the companies providing this service? Many of these owners are unknown, others are linked with politics and some are dubious characters embroiled in criminal investigations.
 
A decade ago, the internet was the realm solely of the progressive, technically savvy, often nerdy youth in many countries of eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. But today, people who in the 2000s didn’t even have a computer regularly browse through their favorite news sites, email and buy their groceries online. 
 
Since 2000, internet usage in the Czech Republic has skyrocketed from less than 10% to nearly 80% of the population in 2014, according to data from World Bank. In less advanced economies such as Bulgaria, it has jumped as well to some 56% in 2014 from a mere 5% in 2000. Even in some slowly growing markets such as Armenia, over 46% of the people used the service in 2014, a gigantic leap from a mere 1.3% in 2000. 
 
But who is behind the telecom groups that provide this service?