The Ukrainian Media Club, which represents independent journalists, yesterday complained of an "assault on press freedoms" after a popular current affairs program, Pislyamova (Epilogue), was prevented from airing on state television on New Year’s Eve. Journalists said officials had retaliated against Epilogue’s recent reporting of dismissals and resignations from the staff of Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma. Orders to pull the show from its regular time slot came "from above" on one hour’s notice, said a program spokesman. It remains unclear when the program will reappear on television.
Kuchma’s press secretary yesterday denied that the president’s office had anything to do with the decision, and the president’s deputy chief of staff said that Kuchma had been looking forward to watching the show on New Year’s Eve. (17) The question on most people’s minds is whether the order came from a high state office, the State TV and Radio Committee, or TV management. The Media Club has demanded a government investigation and threatened to complain to international organizations. (18) While the country’s electronic and print media are known to display a pro-government slant, charges of censorship and violation of press freedoms are infrequent. On the other hand, many Ukrainian journalists have developed the sense that official misconduct is too risky a topic to report.
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