Ukraine was having a trouble-free debut at this year's The Bobs, Deutsche Welle's international blogger contest, until Olena Bilozerska's Ukrainian-language LiveJournal blog won 46 percent of user votes and became the User Winner in the Best Blog Ukrainian nomination.
Bilozerska's victory turned sour and a scandal ensued in the UaNet soon after Ukrainian journalist Mustafa Nayyem, a member of The Bobs’ international jury panel this year, announced [uk] the results of the contest on his Facebook page. Andriy Manchuk, editor-in-chief of the left-wing Ukrainian online publication Liva.com.ua, contacted [ru] Nayyem almost immediately, alerting him to Bilozerska's views on certain political and social issues, and expressing concern that she had been chosen “to represent Ukraine at ‘a global blog contest’.”
Manchuk claimed that Bilozerska was using her blog to cover the activities of Ukraine's ultra-right activists and organizations, and that she herself shared ultra-right views. In his letter to Nayyem, Manchuk quoted from Bilozerska's blog [uk] to support his claims.
- On the ultra-right activists’ torchlight procession against foreign students (mostly Arab, Chinese, and African) studying at the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute (2008):
[…] I consider the action correct and necessary. I am not sure if, as a result, some of the foreigners will understand that they are guests here, that they do not own the place, but maybe they will, at least, give it some thought.
- On “internationalism” (2007):
[…] [Jedem das Seine!] Seriously and without jokes, though, about my attitude to [black people] – it's all simple. I am neutral to those of them who don’t live in Ukraine. Those who live here are a real threat to Ukraine. But at the present stage of historical development, this threat is far from being the main one. When a bear is pushing its way into your house, it is not time to poison the mice.
- On Hitler (2009):
By the way, I'll say something provocative now: monuments to Hitler will be erected. Of course, not in Kyiv, but somewhere in Berlin.
[…] One must not collaborate in any way with Nazis and racists, even with “moderate” racists. […] And even a blind and deaf idiot knows that Bilozerska has earned her journalistic capital by being a mouthpiece for the ultra-rights. […]
On May 11, Manchuk launched a web petition [ru], urging Deutsche Welle to revoke Olena Bilozerska's victory at The Bobs:
[She] advocates racist and other anti-democratic discriminatory views, which is strictly forbidden by [the contest’s rules] and offends Ukrainian bloggers and other Internet users.
So far, nearly 460 people have signed this petition.
Bilozerska’s supporters have started an alternative web petition [uk], which now has nearly 380 signatures:
[…] two or three people, who have been biased against Olena for a long time, have launched a dirty online campaign against her […]. […] Olena vehemently opposes the current regime, she works for the revival of independent Ukraine, and the information agency “Next to You,” which she heads as the editor-in-chief, collaborates with well-known human rights organisations in Ukraine. […]
Nayyem wrote [ru] that he had already contacted Deutsche Welle about Bilozerska's case and the official position would be announced as quickly as possible.
Bilozerska herself noticed the scandal only on May 10 and posted this response [uk] on her blog:
[…] Obviously, they hope that I will start making excuses now. There's no way I will, of course. I state clearly who I am in my LJ profile: “An independent journalist with right-wing views, who is not affiliated with any party or organization.” I have never changed or hidden my views. Naturally, I'm neither a Nazi, nor a fascist. Moreover, I believe that either there are no Nazis or fascists in modern Ukraine – or I know nothing about their existence. […]
Later, Bilozerska added a few words about Manchuk and the rest of her opponents:
[…] The rats are late! They must have ratted on me earlier, when my blog just got into The Bobs finals.
Now I am the winner, no matter what happens next.
If the DW management decides not to annul the contest’s results, the rats will eat dirt and understand that they have done some [promo] work for me gratis.
If they do decide to annul, the reputation of the contest's organizers will suffer, whereas mine won't. Because those who know and read me will continue to know and read me, and there'll be even more of them. Another loud scandal will take place, and journalists will write about it, and I will not pay a penny for [the publicity] again :) […]
One of the problems with Bilozerska's case is that for the past three years she has been something of a Ukrainian freedom of speech suppression symbol. She features regularly in journalists’ rights statements on Ukraine, including those issued by the Reporters Without Borders and GV's Threatened Voices project. The Ukrainian media, too, use Bilozerska's reports relatively often. All this makes it more difficult to find the right solution for this right-wing journalist/blogger's case.