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Ukraine: Social Media Play Crucial Role in Covering Anti-Tax Code Protests

On Nov. 22, several thousand Ukrainian entrepreneurs from different regions gathered in the center of Kyiv to protest against the new tax code approved by the Ukrainian Parliament last Thursday.

While the country’s traditional media failed to produce timely and balanced coverage of the events, social network users and bloggers kept Ukrainians well-informed about the latest developments in Kyiv and other cities.

At Blogoreader.org.ua, Serhiy Pishkovtsiy analyzes [UKR] the impact of social media on reporting the protests. He writes:

Більшість головних телеканалів країни мовчали, а ввечері випустили скупі сюжети про мітинг підприємців. Протягом дня деяку інформацію показував лише 5 канал, а ввечері вийшов розгорнутий репортаж на 1+1, а також велася пряма трансляція на ТВі. На цьому все. Решта каналів фактично проігнорували мітинг кількох десятків тисяч людей, який відбувався на головній площі країни.

Але це вже не важливо. Українське суспільство, зрештою, показало, що в змозі обійтися і без заангажованих традиційних медіа. Майже вся інформаційна картина вчорашнього дня була повністю висвітлена в соціальних медіа – Twitter, Facebook, Вконтакте, блоги та відеосервіси.

The majority of the country’s main TV channels kept silent, and in the evening released skimpy reports about the entrepreneurs’ rally. Throughout the day only Channel 5 showed some information, there was a live broadcast on TVi, and in the evening Channel 1+1 ran an in-depth story on the event. That was all. The rest of the TV channels practically ignored tens of thousands of people protesting on the country’s main square.

But it is no longer important. The Ukrainian society, in the end, has demonstrated that it can do without the biased traditional media. A nearly full informational picture of the day has been painted by the social media – Twitter, Facebook, Vkontakte, blogs and video sharing services.[…]

Vitaliy Moroz (@Insider_ua) provides an overview [UKR] of online activity that took place on Nov. 22:

Офіційний початок анонсований в Інтернеті і серед підприємців був запланований на 10 ранку […].

The official start [of the protest] announced on the Internet and among the entrepreneurs was planned for 10 am […].

Близько 11 ранку тисячі українців дізналися, що події з протестами можна переглянути в режимі реального часу.

Онлайн-трансляція через Ustream.tv стала подією дня в українському інтернеті.

Around 11 am, thousands of Ukrainians learned that it was possible to follow the protest activity in real time.

Online broadcast through Ustream.tv became the event of the day on Ukrainian Internet.

A screenshot of the Nov. 22 Ustream.tv live broadcast of the anti-tax code rally on Bankova St. in Kyiv

Ближче до обіду українські твітеряни розпочали надсилати повідомлення-заклики до західних ЗМІ з проханням написати про події, які відбуваються в Києві. […]

In the afternoon, the Ukrainian Twitter users began to send messages urging Western media to write about the events taking place in Kyiv. […]

Українські телеканали надіслали камери на Майдан, зранку кілька знімальних груп Інтера, ICTV можна було побачити в центрі подій, Однак тема протестів не стала центральною у вечірніх новинах. До вечора жоден телеканал не робив прямих включень.

Демонстранти переконані – телеканали з огляду на цензуру на висвітлюють у повній мірі акції протесту. Поширюються заклики до преси.[…]

Ukrainian television channels sent cameras to Maidan [Kyiv's Independence Square], in the morning several news crews from Inter, ICTV could be seen in the middle of events, but the protests did not make the central topic of evening news. Until late evening, no TV channel ran a live broadcast.

The protesters are convinced – TV channels cover the protests reluctantly because of censorship. Appeals to the press are being circulated. […]

While the traditional media remained relatively inactive, online activity has been on the rise throughout the day. @Insider_ua writes:

30-40 твітів в секунду з хештегом #kat_ua, 18 000 користувачів одночасно слідкують за протестами в Києві в онлайн-режимі – цифри активності користувачів.

30-40 tweets per second with hashtag #kat_ua [official hashtag of the anti-tax code protest], 18,000 users simultaneously following the online broadcast of the protest in Kyiv – these are the numbers on the activity of Internet users.

A screenshot of the Nov. 22 Ustream.tv live broadcast of the anti-tax code rally on Kyiv's Independence Square

In the afternoon of Nov. 22, Reuters ran a report on protests in Ukraine. Internet users pushed Reuters’ news article to the top on Digg.com.

Finally, late in the evening, ICTV channel ran a talk show with the protest being the central topic. Closer to midnight, a live broadcast from the protest was shown on Channel 1+1.

At Blogoreader.org.ua, Serhiy Pishkovtsiy concludes:

Звісно, не обійшлося і без негативних моментів. Було багато інформаційного шуму, були і розчаровані. Але насправді цей приклад є дуже позитивним. Що б там не говорили про тиск на медіа та цензуру – в Україні ще не все втрачено, поки є соціальні медіа.

Of course, there were negative moments as well. There was a lot of informational noise, there were the disappointed ones. But in the end, this has been a very positive example. Whatever they say about the pressure on the media and censorship – not everything has been lost in Ukraine as long as there are social media.

4 comments

  • Great post! I really love it when Social Media forces the traditional one to cover important stories.

    • Thank you! One Twitter user wrote that Ukrainian protests of 2010 differ from protests of 2004 (“Orange Revolution”) by the fact that in 2004 most people learned about them through immediate participation, and in 2010 most people learned about protests by following events online. This raises a whole lot more of interesting questions, of course :)

      • Alexander Belyakov

        This is a great contribution that has already received a recognition. Please find your work citied in the academic paper:
        Alexander Belyakov. Public Service Broadcasting: An Answer to Freedom of Speech Challenges in Ukraine?;
        Cologne, in November 2010, ISBN 978-3-938933-81-7http://www.rundfunk-institut.uni-koeln.de/institut/publikationen/arbeitspapiere/ap275.php

  • Thank you, I am happy to hear you’ve found it useful.

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