Thursday, July 28, 2005

As of now, 602 journalists have signed the petition, some of them as many as three times (Stepan Sachuk, newspaper Volyn, editor-in-chief, Lutsk - #420, #422 and #426)...


The story of the scandal is featured in the Times and the Telegraph in Britain, and Mara Bellaby's AP piece is all over the place, too...


The Kyiv Post has a fresh editorial - That Kid Again:


It’s worth separating what’s outrageous about the above from what isn’t. Listening to some of the journalistic rhetoric, you’d think young Andriy was an outrageous decadent in the mold of the Marquis de Sade, squandering the national wealth on ceaseless orgies. In fact, his lifestyle is not atypical of that of young people in positions analogous to his. It might be unfair, but the kids of powerful politicians tend to be showered with gifts and offered opportunities the rest of us don’t get. They get offered high-paying sinecures. When Ukrainska Pravda editor Olena Prytula says in a recent interview that Andriy’s lifestyle raises corruption issues, because Andriy’s unnamed benefactors might be trying to influence the president, she’s mistaken. There’s nothing that says a First Child has to take a vow of poverty, and there’s nothing illegal about a private citizen – which is what Andriy is – accepting gifts or a high salary for doing too little work. Without proof of a quid pro quo involving his father, what Andriy owns – or borrows or uses or accepts as a gift – is no one’s business but his own and his family’s. Unseemliness is no crime. This is a free country.

What is outrageous, however, is Andriy’s allegedly loutish behavior. No one should be able to park illegally in the middle of the street; no one’s bodyguards should be able to warn off the police. This speaks to an old Ukrainian problem: that there have been two sets of laws in this country, one for the guys in the black luxury sedans, and another for everybody else. If young Yushchenko gets to break the laws everyone else lives under, then this is absolutely a matter for a watchdog press.

This brings us back to President Yushchenko’s behavior throughout this hullabaloo. It hasn’t been good. When an Ukrainska Pravda reporter questioned him about his son at a press conference this week, Yushchenko exploded in dudgeon. In a rambling response, he insisted on his son’s flawless morality, weirdly brought up the specter of threats of violence against his family, adjured journalists not to disgrace their profession, offered conflicting versions of who’s paying for his son’s luxuries, and – most startling of all – told Ukrainska Pravda’s reporter not to be a “hired killer.” That’s a loaded thing to say in a country where journalists have indeed been long for hire, and where they’ve too often been killed.

If Yushchenko’s going to be the leader of a European country, he should try to sound like one. Do we believe Yushchenko has the same contempt for a free press that his predecessor in office did? No. But the trouble with this sort of ranting is that it sets a bad example for officials down the food chain. If a newspaper cameraman has his equipment smashed by an Interior Ministry cop next week, we’ll wonder whether Yushchenko’s effusion didn’t have something to do with it.


The president missed an excellent chance to strengthen democracy and the media environment here, and to affirm that the days of well-connected Ukrainians being above the law are over.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree with the Kyiv Post editorial. Thanks for pointing it out. Extremely well thought out and written. And dead on concerning the real issues involved. It is a shame that these pieces are never signed. Are they written by the same person?

    07.29.05 - 2:55 pm