On January 23, 2019 a press conference was held in the UKRINFORM News Agency by a coalition of NGOs consisting of "The Commission on Journalism Ethics", "Human Rights Platform", "Ukrainian Media and Communications Institute" and "StopFake" with the support of Council of Europe projects* on the launch of independent monitoring of media coverage of the presidential campaign in Ukraine.
Given that elections of both the President and Members of the Parliament of Ukraine will take place in 2019, it is extremely important to ensure that elections are fair and transparent, and that citizens are provided with an opportunity to make an informed and well-grounded choice. An integral part of any election process is informing voters about the electoral process and procedures, candidates and parties, the election campaign, as well as the monitoring by both the authorized state bodies and the public of compliance with the rules of election campaigning.
When opening the press conference, Mr Andriy Kulykov, Head of the NGO “The Commission on Journalism Ethics”, said: "Many people can observe the elections’ process. It is the media who are able to broadly, fairly and impartially inform about the elections. However, they (that is, us) need to be monitored, too – just to be on the safe side".
In order to monitor how the provisions of the current electoral legislation of Ukraine, as well as journalistic standards and standards for coverage of the electoral process in media and social networks are observed the Council of Europe experts have developed a respective methodology. This methodology can be used by civil society organizations that either intend or already carry out the monitoring of media and social networks during the election process. It is expected that the monitoring results will also contribute to the development of self-regulation in the journalists’ community. Mr Rasťo Kužel, international expert of the Council of Europe, emphasized: "The main objective of our monitoring is to inform the public about the conduct of the media and social networks during the election campaign and stimulate the debate on the objectivity and quality of their work on the coverage of electoral campaign. I really hope that our monitoring will provide a useful and constructive feedback for journalists who understand the significance of these elections as well as their important role in this process."
Media lawyer and Executive Director of the NGO “Human Rights Platform” Mr Oleksandr Burmahin underlined that the 2019 elections year is crucial for Ukraine: "The results of the elections can change the course, vector, and agenda of our lives for at least the next 5 years. And the media holds the key role in this process. Why? The answer is simple. In a situation of a deep mistrust to politicians, they are only 10-15% apart from each other and this range lies within the limits of statistical error. There are no obvious favourites, the struggle is on for every single per cent, and the headquarters of major competitors do not even deny this fact. Therefore, the rightly coordinated "influence", the editorial policy of major all-Ukrainian and regional media can tip the scales to one side or the other. Without exaggeration, the results of the election day largely depend on the level of professionalism and ethics of the media in the election process."
Ms Olga Yurkova, media expert, co-founder of NGO “StopFake” (Ukraine), said: "Social media are becoming a more powerful tool for increasing political influence. Therefore, we will monitor their role in the presidential elections."
Since mid-January 2019, using the above-mentioned methodology, a team of independent monitoring specialists has been conducting quantitative and qualitative analysis of the media coverage of the presidential race by a number of national TV channels, online media and social networks. Based on the results of the monitoring, interim and final reports will be prepared, which will be presented publicly.
* Monitoring is carried out by the coalition of NGOs consisting of "The Commission on Journalism Ethics", "Human Rights Platform", "Ukrainian Media and Communications Institute" and "StopFake" (Ukraine) with the support of the Council of Europe Projects “Supporting the transparency, inclusiveness and integrity of electoral practice in Ukraine” and “Strengthening freedom of media, access to information and reinforcing the public broadcasting system in Ukraine", which are implemented within the framework of the Council of Europe Action Plan for Ukraine 2018-2021.