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Drach Speaks To Challenges Facing Independent Media in Ukraine

Ukraine - Maryana Drach, Acting Director, RFE/RL Ukrainian Service.
RFE/RL’s Acting Ukrainian Service Director Maryana Drach spoke to students and alumni about the Ukrainian media landscape at the fifth annual Model Ukraine White Paper Committee workshop October 16-18 in Ottawa. The event was sponsored by the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Program (CUPP), which is a parliamentary internship program for Ukrainian students established by the Ukrainian Diaspora in Canada.

In her remarks to the students and workshop guests, Drach explained that while some journalists see Ukraine as experiencing a “golden age” of investigative journalism, many challenges remain. Revelations which come up from investigative journalism, especially about corruption at the top, are often ignored by the country's authorities.

Furthermore, “the media environment is marred by the efforts to undermine the credibility of independent journalists,” said Drach. “Critics of the government feel the consequences, and the punches, wherever they come from, are getting increasingly personal.”

Fifth annual Model Ukraine White Paper Committee Workshop October 16-18 in Ottawa, Canada.
Fifth annual Model Ukraine White Paper Committee Workshop October 16-18 in Ottawa, Canada.
Drach also underlined the need for Ukraine to establish a viable public television channel with the structures in place to protect editorial independence. Currently, as independent media monitors have assessed, the state TV news reporting in Ukraine is biased against opposition candidates and independent voices.

Also in attendance at the conference were Ambassador to Canada Vadym Prystaiko and former Canadian Ambassador to Ukraine Derek Fraser.

Before becoming acting director of RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, Drach served as the managing editor for the service. Born in Kyiv, she joined RFE/RL in 1996. She has moderated the service’s popular program, “Liberty for the Week: and several programs looking at Ukraine’s external relations, such as “Ukraine and the World,” and “Our Neighbors.”

Freedom House defines Ukraine’s media as “partly free,” noting that press freedoms have eroded recently as a result of authoritarian-style rule of the current government leadership.

--Emily Thompson