63 journalists have died in Ukraine for the years of independence, and their deaths occurred due to their professional activity. At the same time we hear around that present journalists are interested only in money, scandals and self-promotion. In order to find out whether journalism is gradually degenerates in Ukraine ForUm had an interview with a media expert, presenter of the "Freedom of speech" TV program Andriy Kulikov, who has been working in media for 33 years.
-Do you think numerous complaints against Ukrainian journalists are grounded?
- The majority of people believe that journalism in Ukraine has worsened. At the same time I want to ask where these people learn news from. From journalists. We like not to like somebody. And many complaints against mass media are fair. However, the majority of our colleagues do their job in a proper way. I mean they do provide the communication among various groups of Ukrainians.
- What about complaints from the authorities?
- Many people in power or those who want to get in power do not like journalists. From time to time we hear statements that our colleagues are corrupt. I cannot prove that such statements are made with the purpose to discredit the mass media, but I cannot ignore it either. However, this is a part of that pressure, which a journalist constantly feels. There is also unconscious pressure from the colleagues and audience. But we must remember that it's us who exist for the audience, not the audience for us.
- Journalists are often accused of sensationalism. Not so long ago the world was talking about the scandal around the British newspaper News of the World, which bugged people to get some sensation. What is the line a journalist can reach but do not cross?
- I believe it is the line beyond which a crime lies. Journalists should not cross this line not only because they may face a criminal responsibility, but also because with such actions journalists justify the violation of the law in society's mind.
- What if a journalist decides to provoke an official to prove his corruptive nature? How admissible is that?
- British newspaper "Sun" often uses provocation. For example, investigating prostitution cases covered with massage services, a Sun journalist goes there pretending to be a client and asks for 'special' service. But he never actually uses the service, as it would be a violation of the law. The standard phrase in the articles of this newspaper is "...our journalist offered his apologies and left."
At the same time, in Ukraine it is hardly possible to obtain any exclusive information without
breaching the law. There have been questions on the movie "Prison #1" by Konstantyn Usov. I am sure the author was repeatedly asking himself about the morality of his actions, when he factually provoked officials of a detention facility into bribe-taking. Though dubious, it was, I believe, the only possibility to get documented proofs of the shameful conditions of our penitentiary system.
- Older generation of Ukrainian journalists often put Soviet essayists as an example to follow for younger colleagues...
- Publicism and essayism are not the best manifestations of journalism as for me. It is more complicated to write a short, 30-line essential professional note of facts or a one-minute long story on TV or radio than to write a huge essay of bla-bla-bla instead of facts. It is more important to put down all information for the audience to make conclusions than to force people to read your conclusions. However, I do not shrug off essayism as it is.
- It is not infrequent to hear some people say the majority of journalists are obsessed with money, while True journalists are rare species...
- Journalism is a craft close to art. We believe that famous journalists live in Kyiv, Lviv, Kharkiv... But there are thousands of our colleagues working in cities and towns we don't even know the names of. They do great deal of work, and sometimes they are under higher pressure than we are here in capital. Apart from all-Ukrainian situation in politics and economy they are also pressed by local authorities, business and criminals.
- What is the biggest threat for Ukrainian mass media?
- Mass media market is extremely overstuffed and continues to consume more and more journalists. Being not fully formed souls they start working in newspapers where more or less acceptable material within the shortest period possible is enough for publication. Under such conditions young journalists merely stops improving and keep balance in their materials.
- Some words about your programs. I believe it happens that you like one politician more than another. But what happens when you have to ask this very politician a very unpleasant question? Do you feel sorry for him?
- I rather feel sorry for myself, because I have to do something I'd prefer not to. Sometimes it happens that I'd prefer to listen to one particular guest than the rest, but I have to keep the balance and give the floor to the others. In this case my experience of interpreter helps a lot. The work of an interpreter is not to agree or disagree with an author, but to make sense of his words.
- Do you have some professional phobias or nightmares, may be?
- My every mistake used to be a fear I learned from. At the beginning of my career my biggest mistake was not thorough investigation of facts and information, and sometimes it resulted into quite unpleasant situations. As for nightmare, no. But I had a dream recently about one famous politician who was doing his best to hire me. With another politician I was discussing something walking along the river bank, but our discussion resulted into mutual disappointment.
- Have you ever had a thought to 'divorce' journalism and 'marry' politics?
- Once, in former USSR, I was a self-nominee in the first ever election campaign. I took the sixth place out of seven. Later I ran for the parliament and once was a member of People's Movement. But deputy's mandate was not an ultimate goal. I just wanted to get an opportunity to socialize with many people. The point was to prove the democratic mechanism was working and that personal initiative could bring you where never you wanted to. Anyway, now I am engaged into politics even giving an interview or participating in a protest action against illegal construction. In our purely Ukrainian situations it is the very politics.
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