TVi Channel Plunges Into Further Disarray

KIEV, Ukraine -- TVi, a Ukrainian television channel that exposed corruption in the government and which was recently embroiled in an ownership battle, plunged into further disarray on Monday when most of its reporters quit.

TVi talk show host Mustafa Nayem

The move comes after days of negotiations between the reporters and management failed to resolve disagreements.

The reporters accused the management of introducing censorship at the channel.

The development deals a devastating blow to the channel, one of few that have been providing unbiased reporting and giving airtime to opposition figures.

A previous owner had been reportedly seeking to sell for $120 million.

“We do not see any possibility to perform our professional duties at the channel as we no longer can guarantee our audience objective and unbiased coverage,” the reporters said in a statement.

“People that claim to be the [new] owners and the [new] managers have destroyed the reputation of TVi,” the reporters said.

“In this situation the only acceptable way out for us is to quit.”

The massive exodus from TVi, which affects at least 31 reporters and staff members, comes as President Viktor Yanukovych has been seeking to reassert his grip on power ahead of the next presidential election in March 2015.

There were signs the government may have been supporting the reshuffle of the ownership and the management in order to stop investigative reports uncovering corruption among officials.

Pavel Sheremet, a TVi talk show host recently fired by the new owners, cited undisclosed sources at the new management, to say that the attack on the channel was ordered by Serhiy Arbuzov, the first deputy prime minister and the most trusted lieutenant of Yanukovych.

The ownership and management reshuffle was needed to ease criticism of Yanukovych and to step up uncovering corruption at a rival political group within the ruling Regions Party, Sheremet said.

The group that Arbuzov had allegedly wanted to target included Serhiy Liovochkin, the chief of staff at the Yanukovych administration and billionaire Dmytro Firtash, Sheremet said.

Yuriy Lutsenko, an opposition leader who was jailed to four years in prison two years ago and recently pardoned by Yanukovych, said the exodus of reporters would change TVi completely.

“After the resignations, there will be no channel the people believed to and the government feared,” Lutsenko said in post on his Facebook account.

“I loved everything here over the past two years,” Nastya Stanko, one of the reporters that had quit, tweeted on Monday.

“RIP, TVi.”

Mustafa Nayem, another TVi talk show host who quit, said the reporters will probably start a new project, an internet-based television channel.

“This project will be truly transparent, there will be no oligarchs. This will be an internet project in which we will do our job,” Nayem said.

“I can’t say when it starts, but I think in the near future."  

Source: Ukrainian Journal