Crackdown in Ukraine sullies its democratic aspirations

Amid tensions with Russia, Kiev is not tolerating any 'pro-separatist' points of view in the press – which plays straight into the hands of Kremlin propaganda.

Rich Clabaugh/Staff

The rebel-held Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which have been granted “special status” by Ukraine’s parliament, are essentially governed by a self-appointed military junta. It remains to be seen whether local elections slated for November will improve on that picture.

But under the impact of war and extreme social polarization, the democratic credentials of the pro-European Kiev government have been slipping as well. A crackdown on what authorities describe as “pro-separatist” points of view has triggered dismay among Western human rights monitors, and at the very least played straight into the hands of Kremlin propaganda.

For example, the Sept. 11 shutdown of the independent Kiev-based Vesti newspaper by the Ukrainian Security Service for “violating Ukraine’s territorial integrity” brought swift condemnation from the international Committee to Protect Journalists and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Ukraine has also shut down most Russia-based television stations on the grounds that they purvey “propaganda,” and barred a growing list of Russian journalists from entering the country. In July it banned the parliamentary faction of the Communist Party, which won 13 percent of the vote in 2012 elections, on the grounds that its members had spoken in defense of eastern Ukraine’s rebels.

As Ukraine heads into parliamentary polls, any questions touching on the country’s territorial integrity appear to have become an unspoken “red line” for all candidates. “Any politician who declares that Ukraine should be willing to sacrifice any part of its sovereignty might come to a hard end, very quickly,” says Viktor Zamiatin, a political expert with the Razumkov Center in Kiev.

In Zaporizhia, the state of lockdown is hard to miss. A self-organized, pro-Kiev armed militia of 800 men keeps order. “We won’t allow any expressions of separatism here,” says Sergei Ostapenko, the militia’s commander. “If anybody has an opinion that might lead to mass disorders, we’ll take measures to put it down.”

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Crackdown in Ukraine sullies its democratic aspirations
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2014/0921/Crackdown-in-Ukraine-sullies-its-democratic-aspirations
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe