In Ukraine, star politicians pay $50,000 to $80,000 to be invited on top television programs. This type of media corruption is called “jeansa” – the term came from either the act of putting money in the back pocket of one's jeans or to Ukraine's first known case of paying for positive news coverage, which was from a Russian company that sold jeans. Telekritika, along with other media watchdogs, started monitoring this trend early last year.
As editor-in-chief and founder of Telekritika, an online news site that provides analysis and critiques of news and political events, Natalia Ligacheva says she is often approached by companies that want to pay her to publish positive editorials about them. She vehemently refuses the offers. Telekritika is supporting a “We Won't Sell Out” campaign that criticizes reporters who publish these features that Ligacheva calls “advertisements.”
“Ukrainian readers and viewers need and deserve professional journalism,” says Ligacheva. “Professional journalism, as I see it, is intelligent journalism based on honest intentions, based on facts and not on rumors or conjectures, that serves the citizens and not the government or publishers. Journalism should be devoted to one thing—the search for truth.”
Jeansa and paid-for editorials are just two of the many media issues that Ligacheva has been involved in since starting Telekritika in 2001. The Ukrainian web-based media watchdog (now also a print magazine) was launched as Ligacheva’s response to censorship by her editors at the Ukrainian newspaper Den. Telekritika is an open forum for critical media analysis, where journalists, politicians, and the community can discuss pressing questions of ethics and reporting standards.
In 2004, Ligacheva played a crucial role in Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, spearheading a journalists’ movement that publicly denounced censorship and political pressure and vowed to uphold professional principles.
“Media issues may change, but our goals remain the same,” says Ligacheva. “We see our mission as strengthening professional journalism in Ukraine by stimulating politicians, authorities, media owners, and journalists to realize the important public role of the media as the ‘watchdog of democracy’.”
Ligacheva was awarded the title of “Honored Journalist of Ukraine” by President Viktor Yushchenko in 2007 for her tremendous personal contributions to the development of constitutional principles of the Ukrainian national state system, enduring and conscientious work, and high level of professionalism.
She was also honored by Internews at the Media Leadership Awards in June 2008.
(Banner photo: Journalists report on the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004. Credit: Internews)