When a journalist refuses to become a billionaire's press officer

Ukraine, Europe’s second biggest country, has come into the global spotlight as tensions have risen between it and its eastern neighbour Russia. Inside Ukraine, meanwhile, another war is raging around the freedom of the press, as our latest “Voice of Freedom” tells us in Kyiv.

This content was published on December 16, 2021 - 09:30

We meet the 24-year-old journalist Dylan Carter on Zhylianska Street, in the heart of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. We are outside the headquarters of the Kyiv Post, one of Eastern Europe’s oldest and most renowned English-language newspapers.

“We are being watched closely,” says Carter, who is originally from Sheffield in northern England and who has worked in Ukraine as a business journalist for a few years. Indeed, behind the tall windows of the high-rise office building, several pairs of eyes are following our conversation. “A few days ago the other journalists and I were fired after our owner Adnan Kivan, a billionaire oligarch from Odessa, had enough of our professional journalism,” says Carter.

Kivan, a real estate tycoon, took over the PostExternal link for more than $3.5 million (CHF3.23 million) in 2018. The publisher announcedExternal link on November 8 that the newspaper would close immediately “for a short time” but would hopefully reopen “bigger and better”, and that chief editor Brian Bonner was retiring. All 50 members of staff were fired. He did not give a reason for the abrupt closure. The news created strong reactions in and outside Ukraine.

Ukraine, however, could benefit from an independent and free press as the country tries to develop a stronger civil society and participatory democracy. Earlier this year, the national parliament adopted a new law governing modern direct democracy in the country – something which will also be discussed at the international Ukraine Reform ConferenceExternal link to take place in Lugano in Switzerland in 2022. However, there will no longer be an independent English-language reporting outlet in Ukraine.

“Kyiv Post has been relaunched, but as a press service for the newspaper’s owner,” says Carter.

Stay tuned in 2022 for the next instalments of our “Global Voices of Freedom” series.

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