Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on Tuesday fired the would-be state television reformer, Mykola Knyazhytsky, 30, from the post of president of the State Television Company (STC) (Ukrainian agencies and television, November 17). The dismissal followed a scandal which broke out after Knyazhytsky withheld the broadcast of the weekly political show “Seven Days” last Sunday (November 15). The show was anchored by Vadym Dolhanov, an outstanding representative of the old communist-style hate journalism, a former press attache of the Ukrainian embassy in Russia, later official of the Interior Affairs Ministry, and currently the STC vice president. The program, run on prime time Sundays, has been known for both its often unsubstantiated attacks on the Kuchma administration’s political enemies and its giving considerable air time to state officials to attack their opponents, who usually belong to the leftist camp. Following the suspension, Dolhanov called on President Kuchma to intervene during a press conference he summoned Monday (November 16).
Knyazhytsky, who launched a successful STV private television company last year, was appointed president of the STC by Kuchma in late September. He promised to make this first national Ukrainian channel–which is directly subordinated to the government but unpopular because of its low quality programming–a “Ukrainian BBC,” by bringing new professional standards and young ambitious journalists. The failed suspension of “Seven Days” turned out to be his first and last reform of state television.
Knyazhytsky said that the real reason behind his dismissal was his request to audit the recent years’ activities of the STC and involve the prosecutor’s office in the process. This request, according to Knyazhytsky, was ignored by both Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko and Information Minister Zinovy Kulyk. The latter yesterday replaced Knyazhytsky as the STC president (Ukrainian agencies, November 17). Kulyk, a former Komsomol and Communist Party functionary in charge of propaganda, who served as information minister from 1996 until this week, is known for his personal loyalty to Kuchma. The state television and “Seven Days” in particular are seen by many as being used by Kuchma as an electoral tool. As such, they would ideally be in “reliable hands” well before the presidential elections scheduled for October 1999.–OV
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