For the past couple of years, journalists have faced growing financial and political pressure to adjust the tone and content of their writing. This week’s incident involving Forbes Ukraine, which removed a mention of President Viktor Yanukovych’s son from a ranking of shady public tender recipients, is a case in point.
The paper’s editor quickly pointed out that the links to Yanukovych Jr. were too tenuous to be published until further proof was found – an understandable explanation given the potential onslaught of legal headaches that would have followed if a crack in the story was found. But it is the reaction from other news outlets and theories about official pressure or hidden owners that shows just how rotten much of the media landscape has become. Another worrying case is the collapse of the last TV station that criticized the government, TVi, whose reputation and very existence was brought down in part by unclear ownership structures.
But while scandals easily grab headlines, it is the underlying trends that matter most. Anywhere you look you see a sector that no longer plays by market rules. For several weeks a new daily, Vesti, launched one the country’s largest print operations with an unsustainable model: copies are distributed free of charge by an army of foot soldiers with barely any ads of which to speak.