September 23, 2023

Zaporizhzhia – “Hunting” for comments – Zaporizhzhia journalists complain about problems with access to city council officials. Approval of an interview takes months, and comments cannot be obtained without the permission of the press service of the city hall. In the city council itself, any objections are thrown out by censorship.

I tried to get a comment on the phone from the executive head of the city health department Victoria Ushakova. However, he could not talk to her, says Zaporizhia journalist Oleksandr Pobil . He says that the secretary in the reception office informed: they will not comment on anything without the approval of the mayor’s press service. The journalist says: after that, he turned to the mayor’s press secretary, Olga Mishok, and she promised to organize a meeting with the official.

“I was still waiting on Monday – somewhere until the 3rd or the 2nd. And then you still have to make the material – the work is worth it. And I called the Department of Health again. The secretary didn’t let me see Ushakova, so to speak: “you won’t talk to her until Olga Mishok gives permission.” And Olga Mishok apparently never called Ushakova,” he says.

However, Oleksandr Pobil is not the only one who talks about a misunderstanding in the process of communication with the press service of the City Hall. The editor-in-chief of the “061” site, Tetyana Gonchenko, has been negotiating for more than a month about the recording of an interview with Zaporizhzhia Mayor Volodymyr Buryak. He says that it was possible to record it only after publicity in social networks and a personal appeal to the mayor.

Volodymyr Buryak
Volodymyr Buryak


“He went somewhere, then he prepares for the holidays. And then they said that, almost verbatim quote, we are not interested. Then I wrote a post on Facebook about it – so very sharp, because I was very outraged by this situation, because the mayor had not given an interview to any publication before this, except for TV-5 (a local TV channel owned by the Zaporizhstal plant Volodymyr Buryak worked as the chief engineer of this enterprise until he was elected mayor – author) controlled by himself. A week later, after the meeting of the executive committee, I approached the mayor and said: explain why you don’t want to give us an interview, why you are so closed off?”, says the journalist.

Are there violations of journalists’ rights?

Nataliya Vygovska, a representative of the Institute of Mass Information (IMI) in Zaporizhzhia, is engaged in monitoring the observance of journalists’ rights in the region.

“There was no such thing in Zaporizhzhia. But I spoke with my colleagues and, for example, in Lutsk regional state administration works according to the same principle. I sent this information to IMI. And in IMI they told me that this is a violation. But which one, because it can be access to information, obstruction of professional activity. Now lawyers are deciding what it is, if it is so,” says Nataliya Vygovska.

The head of the mayor’s press service, Olha Mishok, rejects accusations of censorship and restrictions on media communication with city hall officials. He says that there was a misunderstanding in the case of Oleksandr Pobyl.

“This was exclusively the position of one journalist who for some reason decided so. But in fact, we do not have any such prohibition: all that the press service does is coordinate the communication of journalists with various officials, that is, exclusively agree on the time, on some questions, so that they can prepare, and the journalists themselves already communicate “, says the spokesperson of the city mayor.

The mayor’s press secretary assures: journalists can always get comments from officials on their own, without contacting the press service.

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