Stanislav Sokolov from Ukraine, 23, is a senior news editor and a columnist at Novoye Vremnya (, covering a wide range of topics focusing on politics and business and keeping track of science and IT spheres. 

The first time I met censorship was the first day of the Ukrainian revolution — a few days earlier the news website I worked for at that moment,, was bought by a tycoon, closed to the President Victor Yanukovych and his family. The night in November 2013, when people first gathered at Maidan in Kyiv in order to protest was the night when our editorial was no longer free to publish news on its own — a team of censors was introduced that banned any information on the protest. The following day I quit.

Immediately I joined the start-up team of a new website, launching a 24/7 news feed on the
Maidan protests with no censorship – the website’s audience skyrocketed from few hundreds in the first days to millions in December. That was the time when I understood the value and importance of journalism for the society, especially – for the transforming one, a new-born democracy such as Ukraine.
Nevertheless, the victory of the protest could not possibly solve Ukrainian problems like weaving a magic wand, whereas the situation in the media field got out of the frying-pan into the fire. Old developmental diseases - dependence on oligarchs, yellow journalism, jumping to weak conclusions and frequent inability to draw a broader picture – became more acute with massive Russian charm offensive. As war events has shown, journalists are as vulnerable to propagandist hysteria and mythological consciousness as ordinary citizens are.

Ukraine shows an interesting case of quasi-freedom of speech. Legally the media is almost free - especially comparing to so-called dictatorship laws that were adopted during the last days of Yanukovych regime. Nevertheless, talking about really influential media, in national TV channels or popular websites one can hardly notice professional journalism.
TV is totally dependent on the will of their owners - tycoons with distinct political goals and unclear capital sources.
Revolution may have taken political pressure off the agenda - but the following economic crisis put it back - in other forms. Fearing to lose their jobs, source of income, people still work for editions controlled by the fugitive tycoon Serhiy Kurchenko (UMH) or Kremlin-influenced Vesti (daily free newspaper). These ideas show an interesting phenomenon within Ukrainian journalism - self-censorship, which emerged during 1990s and got new power during Yanukovych regime. The matter is that journalists edit their materials, plans and thoughts according to the general concern: someone powerful mightnot like it hence it is not worth writing.
The fall of the semi-authoritarian regime also diminished the fear of imprisonment. Nevertheless, the really dangerous prisons are the ones growing within journalistic minds. National revolutionary events led to skyrocketing patriotic feelings that sometimes resemble patriotic hysteria.
Media people as well suffer from inability to separate their professional ethics from their citizen one. The pressure on media field is especially seen in social networks – editions that allow critical comments, headlines towards pro-Ukrainian events or movements, giving space for the remarks opposing dominant views - are mocked at, criticized and insulted.
Russian charm offensives led to the constant suspicion that everything might be inspired by the Kremlin or its minions. The average reader severely lacks critical thinking - as well as the average journalist.
Ukrainian media proved to be a collective failure during the first Russian propaganda onset - Western audience at first had no other points of view apart from Moscow-fed news storm-troopers. One of the few responses was the Stopfake project - but that is still a drop in the ocean. As my experience in online-journalism shows - people tend to be lazy and vulnerable to “bright” headlines. Deficit of time, complicated work conditions, bad management, lack of experience and indolence prevent journalists from proper fact-checking and attempts to dig deeper.
Journalism in Ukraine has somewhat merged with citizen activism - blurring boundaries between facts and opinions, actual situations and ideal ones within the media field.
Professional editors strive to fight such trends but popular media uses that fact in order to manipulate the readers’ affections, using blatant headlines that distort reality but are like-able and “share-able” since online media seeks traffic in order to earn.
The walls of Ukrainian police-state-to-be have fallen but the mind enclosures remained the same. Journalists in Ukraine need to be enlightened - the chains of previous experiences are to be broken, blinders to be taken off. Media in the country now has capacities to turn into real “fourth power” - or remain to be enslaved. Knowledge is key to such power - and in the present Ukrainian case knowledge is professionalism, which is yet to be reached.

 Stanislav sokolo