Denying the problem’s existence will only help perpetuate it.
In a Facebook post earlier this month, a Ukrainian member of parliament expressed doubt about the existence of media self-censorship, asking, “Which themes do Ukrainian journalists avoid because of pressure?” A journalist in the Cherkasy region replied, “You must live in a different country.”
The question arose after my critical comments at an event organized by the National Union of Journalists on the topic of “Threats to freedom of speech in Ukraine.” At the event, I shared Freedom House’s analysis of the impact of self-censorship and undue influence on media freedom in Ukraine, in particular that “economic and political pressure on journalists, editors, and media outlets, which influences their coverage and pushes them to avoid certain issues, is common.” This doesn’t mean that all journalists and media outlets practice self-censorship, but it is evident that such pressure has been a feature of the Ukrainian media space for a long time.
Nevertheless, in her skeptical post, the parliament member—who chairs a committee on freedom of speech and information policy—declared without further detail that Freedom House’s analysis and statements on the issue “appear political and voiced for the purpose of tarnishing Ukraine’s reputation abroad.”
Unlike government-mandated censorship, which also occurs in Ukraine, self-censorship is difficult to measure because it refers to the stories that journalists pitch but are shot down by editors for political or economic reasons, the investigations that are not pursued as…