Illia Ponomarenko: Ukraine’s Friend & Foe of the Week
Ukraine’s Friend of the Week: Larisa Galadza, the Ambassador of Canada to Ukraine
No one expected this week’s explosive news.
After years of shameless business and media expansion, the top pro-Russian power broker in Ukraine, Viktor Medvedchuk, took a devastating gut-punch late on Feb. 2.
President Volodymyr Zelensky imposed heavy sanctions against lawmaker Taras Kozak, said to be the proxy owner of Medvedchuk’s millions of dollars in media assets.
This effectively shut down three TV news channels that aggressively advocated a pro-Russian agenda — 112 Ukraine, ZIK, and NewsOne.
The biggest mouthpieces of Kremlin-sponsored propaganda against Ukraine were brought to their knees with the stroke of a pen.
The stakes were in the stratosphere.
Such a slap in the face to the all-powerful, ever-untouchable ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin was a bold move that required very strong support from the West.
And the West, especially the United States, the European Union (although with certain reservations) and Canada endorsed Zelensky’s long-overdue call, acknowledging it as a blow against hostile war propaganda, not journalistic freedom.
Ottawa’s mission in Kyiv offered the most candid reaction, saying on Feb. 4 that “Canada recognizes the challenges Ukraine faces in the hybrid war being waged against it.”
“We support Ukraine’s use of lawful mechanisms to preserve its sovereignty, while also preserving media freedom,” the statement reads.
Public diplomatic support means everything to Kyiv in its clash with such a vile and powerful enemy, backed directly by the Kremlin.
So by thanking Canada’s envoy to Kyiv, Larisa Galadza, we thank all the Western nations for giving us a helping hand — again.
Foe of the Week: Anthony Bellanger, Secretary-General of the International Federation of Journalists
Predictably, not everyone in the West liked the sanctions.
Anthony Bellanger, the Secretary-General with Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) had strong criticism for Kyiv.
“This arbitrary and politically-motivated ban is unacceptable in a democracy,” the official was cited as saying on Feb. 3
“The ban puts at risk the job of hundreds of media workers that have nothing to do with their media owners’ political affiliations. The IFJ calls on the Ukrainian authorities to lift the ban and respect freedom of information and speech.”
This and other statements by certain media associations clearly indicate that the IFJ doesn’t understand what Medvedchuk’s channels were and what happened to them.
They were not even close to being journalistic publications. They had turned into aggressive propaganda outlets directly sponsored by a world power waging a war against Ukraine and challenging its very existence as an independent nation.
The unprecedented ban was almost unilaterally hailed in Ukraine even by anti-graft watchdogs, such as Anti-Corruption Action Center, which could hardly be called Zelensky loyalists.
The civil society groups acknowledged that the sanctions were not an infringement on the freedom of speech but a long-overdue act of national security.
The IFJ needs to become a bit more informed when it champions media worldwide.
When Medvedchuk’s pocket man Vadym Kozak purchased ZIK in June 2019, its journalists faced a choice: serve the new pro-Kremlin agenda or leave.
As a result, nearly 95% of ZIK’s staff, some 400 journalists and other employees (including janitors) left because they did not want to obey. Did IFJ ever have any concerns about them losing their jobs and being oppressed by Medvedchuk?
Is IFJ aware what kind of hateful agenda Medvedchuk’s channels pushed in a country partly occupied by Russia?
All in all, this situation required a strong solution. The Kremlin media and business influence in Ukraine has gone way too far.
It’s a shame that IFJ embraced the primitive, criminally simplified view of the situation propagated by the Kremlin.