For more than two days terrorists have held Ukrainian troops guarding the TV tower in Sloviansk (Donetsk oblast) under siege and fire. Another attempt to seize the strategic facility took place on May 10. The following day the terrorists resumed gun and mortar fire. According to Information Resistance Group, there were two injuries on the government side: concussion and shrapnel wound. The “peaceful Sloviansk separatists,” hiding behind apartment buildings, aimed mortar fire at the TV tower. Fourteen mortar shells were fired. Government troops returned fire and sustained no casualties, acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov wrote on his Facebook.
On April 17, armed terrorists seized the local television network and cut off the Ukrainian channels, replacing them with Russian ones. This network provided broadcast to Sloviansk, Kramatorsk, Horlivka, and Makiivka. In the course of a complex special operation in Kostiantynivka (Donetsk oblast) last week, Ukrainian government troops beat off another terrorist attack on the local TV tower. In April – early-May, television networks in Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts have remained the key targets of terrorist attacks. These facilities have changed hands, with the terrorists shutting down Ukrainian channels and activating Russian ones, then the reverse would happen after the terrorists had to retreat. One can only try to imagine the mess in the minds of the local residents, considering that television is their main information source.
In time of war, information becomes strategically important. It has taken the current Ukrainian administration quite some time to realize the fact, although some of our journalists still seem to be happily unaware of it. Our central channels are not using all their capacities of beaming programs to the east of Ukraine, considering that our military is holding the fort there, risking the soldiers’ lives. Worse still, we often watch and hear separatists on our home screens, with the channels’ management failing to work out the right kind of policy in conditions of undeclared war, thus playing into the enemy hands. For example, after the terrorists were forced to retreat from the TV tower in Sloviansk and people could again watch Ukrainian channels, they once again saw a “balanced opinion” show – involving separatists, terrorists, and murderers. “Television troops,” acting to please the network magnates, have kept playing liberalism, thus bungling Ukraine’s anti-terrorist operation. The government which is supposed to straighten out the media performance under the circumstances, remains silent. So what’s the real cost of all those TV towers and our information space?
“Our officers and men have been risking their lives defending the TV tower in Sloviansk for the past 48 hours. Blood has been shed. This tower has turned into a strategic facility, even if on a local scale. Not coincidentally, the terrorists aimed machinegun fire and guided antitank rockets at it. I have the same questions to be answered: What have our ‘television troops’ (national channels) done to at least encourage the military unit which is heroically defending them and that most important facility (without which they’re worth nothing)?” wrote ex-Prime and Defense Minister of Ukraine Yevhen MARCHUK on his Facebook, adding, “They feel free to hold hot-air session in the safety of their studios, blabbering about Ukraine losing information war to Russia. Tough, aren’t they? Do they have to wait for directives from ‘upstairs’ to the effect that using the balanced information principle serves the enemy in wartime? That men wearing combat fatigues, balaclavas, and regular army weapons are not separatists but terrorists, bandits. That they should not be allowed to appear on Ukrainian channels courtesy of balanced opinion. Is it really impossible for a single channel to come up with an interesting report on the dangers of Donetsk separatism for the populace in the first place, on the tragedy of Chechnya, on the evil of collaborating with terrorists, and so on, without the channel owner’s approval or OK from ‘upstairs’? Any such material would be adequately received by most local audiences. Even more so a balanced and truthful story about what the internal troops, SBU and regular army units are doing there and why; one that would shatter the myth about the horrendous deeds on the part of Banderites and the Right Sector in Kyiv and elsewhere. This fake referendum is rooted in precisely this kind of myths, in terms of propaganda. Why then our officers and men have been risking their lives defending that TV tower? Do they need it for themselves? By the way, a short video on them wouldn’t hurt at all.”
UKRAINE MUST IMMEDIATELY RESOLVE INFORMATION SECURITY ISSUE
Natalia LIHACHOVA, media expert, editor-in-chief, Telekrytyka:
“On the one hand, we’re witness to a remarkable degree of unacceptable negligence, at this early stage, on the part of our law-enforcement agencies that have failed to make every effort to prevent the seizure of those TV towers. On the other hand, we can sense the interest in this failure on the part of local political barons who are in control of the situation in the east of Ukraine. A significant statement was made by the First Deputy Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Mykola Holomsha, on the Inter Channel. He said that there were three to four times fewer separatists in Donetsk oblast than law-enforcement men. Therefore, all stories about those men being unable to handle the separatists are simply ridiculous. The problem is that our law-enforcement agencies are directly or indirectly involved with the separatists and terrorists. Otherwise how can one explain the fact that between three and four thousand government troops can’t get the better of five hundred bandits? How come law-enforcement men sometimes readily lay down arms? We all know who is in charge of local law-enforcement agencies and who selected their personnel… Sad but true, Kyiv authorities often fail to keep their law-enforcement agencies under control and have never instructed [the local authorities] to keep the TV towers, come what may.
“Another important thing is for the local media to abide by the Ukrainian rather than pro-Russian political course. Even without terrorist takeovers Luhansk media, particularly the printed ones, are maintaining a stand which is anything but pro-Ukrainian. The Ukrainian administration must immediately step in and resolve the information security issue.
“There are a number of questions addressing the policy of major Ukrainian television channels. Media experts have worked out recommendations relating to the current situation, particularly the accuracy of appellations; one cannot refer to terrorists as separatists, even less so as protesters – but far from all channels are paying attention to these recommendations.”
IMPORTANT: REDUCE USAGE OF UKRAINIAN MEDIA AS CARRIERS OF CRIMINAL MESSAGES TO A MINIMUM
Mykhailo BASARAB, political analyst:
“It is very important to keep television relay stations under control, because we all know that Russia had long brainwashed certain regions of Ukraine before invading our country. The sad result is there for all to see. The way many residents of eastern regions have behaved is proof that these people have doctored or falsified information about the situation there, courtesy of Russian television and years of propaganda carefully prepared and skillfully applied by Russian media. Therefore, we must not underestimate the impact of the media on the situation that has developed in the east of Ukraine.
“As for the Ukrainian media, it is understandable that every channel should build its policy proceeding from the need to beat off the aggressor and strengthen the Ukrainian military’s morale. On the other hand, unless we want to emulate Dr. Goebbels’ propaganda example, we must also pay attention to what people in those eastern regions think and wish. This approach could eventually help them realize that they are taking the wrong stand. By comparing an unbiased description of events to their personal response, they could change their mind quicker. Blatant propaganda will not have the desired effect, because it is always met with hostility, especially if the man in the street already has a ‘prevailing’ opinion. Under the circumstances, shooting from the hip would be the wrong kind of tactic.
“Summing up, it is extremely important to reduce to a minimum the possibility of Ukrainian media being used by outright criminals who are helping the aggressor and fake public leaders like Tsariov, Dobkin, and others who are Moscow mouthpieces. They have no constructive ideas, only those aimed at serving Russia’s interests. Public opinion in Donetsk and Luhansk could be covered using comparisons and examples, making the wrong assessments clearly apparent.”