USAID/Ukraine’s flagship media support program, Strengthening Independent Media in Ukraine (U-Media) was implemented during 8 years of unprecedented political, economic, and social transition. Five elections (two presidential, two parliamentary, one local), the consolidation of media outlets, and the 2008 economic crisis provided a dynamic backdrop to U-Media’s development efforts.
Despite hopes that a vibrant, independent Ukrainian media sector would emerge following the Orange Revolution, the sector continued to face significant challenges. Paid content pervaded broadcasts and publications, and editors and journalists were subjected to direct and self-censorship. The quality of media content suffered as basic journalism skills in newsgathering and reporting declined.
Since launching in 2003, U-Media has developed a cadre of 12 professional, independent, sustainable media support NGOs capable of addressing these challenges. Over this period, U-Media employed a long-term, holistic approach to improve the quality of services delivered by these media sector NGOs and develop the institutional capacity necessary for them to flourish. U-Media technical assistance and sub-grant support enabled these NGOs to emerge as leaders in media monitoring, journalist training, new media, legal support and awareness, and investigative journalism. Many became key participants in the New Citizen civic initiative, which advocated for passage of Ukraine’s landmark Law on Access to Public Information.
Two groups receiving U-Media support that have emerged as leaders in the sector are Telekritika and Internews Ukraine. With support from both the U.S. State Department and USAID, media monitoring group Telekritika has established itself as a leading voice against media censorship. Through its regular monitoring of television news and talk shows, Telekritika has become Ukraine’s premier media watchdog and critic, respected by media industry and political groups alike. Telekritika was a founding member and catalyst of the Stop Censorship Movement and recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, a unique achievement for a Ukrainian media NGO.
NGO Internews Ukraine has emerged as one of the leading media training institutions in Ukraine, working in both the traditional and new media spheres to improve newsgathering and reporting skills, and to promote professional ethics. Internews Ukraine is a partner in the Stop Censorship media movement, as well as key media and communications partner in the New Citizen and Chesno civic movements.
The five-year Ukraine Media Project, launched in October 2011, will continue institutional capacity building efforts championed under U-Media and further cement USAID’s position as the critical player in developing sustainable Ukraine media support institutions. In addition to further developing internal and external capacities of Telekritika and Internews Ukraine, the Ukraine Media Project will design and implement tailored institutional capacity building strategies to improve Ukrainian media support NGO strategic planning, resource diversification, and financial management.