International contest on corruption and censorship took off in Ukraine

Censorship in media in the Soviet times had fatal consequence. To encourage freedom of speech activists launch a competition employing art approaches.

Kyiv, April 26, 2016. The 4th international contest “Stop Censorship! Citizens for Free Countries” has started In Ukraine. The competition accepts works that raise questions of freedom of expression, access to information, censorship. This year’s special theme is “Corruption – is …” This was reported by the contest organizer Aksinya Kurina at a briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. “We want citizens themselves to understand what corruption is. Politicians often exploit that word, and we need to understand what exactly is corruption at the highest levels and domestic corruption which, unfortunately, involves a lot of people,” said Ms. Kurina.

“Censorship is a direct threat to life. If 30 years ago [after the Chernobyl accident] Soviet authorities and journalists had called a spade “a spade”, a lot of people would have saved their lives and health. Only one small example: even if it was impossible to evacuate hundreds of thousands of children, at least they could have been immediately given iodine [to replace the radioactive one from the atmosphere],” said Natalia Sokolenko, journalist, Hromadske Radio. In her opinion, it is the state media that continue to be the most corrupt. Another challenge, according to her, is threat to public broadcasting in the country. She said that the call of the National Union of Journalists to dismiss Zurab Alasania is part of a scheme to stop the reform of public broadcasting. They plan to give the executive position to someone loyal to the government.

Alim Aliev, co-founder of the civil initiative “Crimea SOS”, reminded that searches and persecutions of journalists continue in the occupied Crimea, they are, in fact, driven out of the peninsula. According to him, there is no independent media there. Those who are trying to provide information either do it in secret, or are in prisons. “This contest gives a clear message to Crimean journalists that they may be the seeds of freedom of speech on the peninsula. It also reminds other Ukrainian journalists about solidarity,” he said.

According to Alisa Lozhkina, Art Ukraine senior editor, creative people are not so much involved in the political process in the country, as it was during the Maidan. However, she believes that artists should” be vigilant not only at times of social elation but all the time,” to counter manifestations of censorship and propaganda. “It is artists with their high sensitivity to injustice who should be involved in this process,” believes Ms. Lozhkina.

The competition will run until May 30. Everyone can take part in it. Works will be accepted in the format of texts, pictures, poems, slogans, multimedia in four languages: Ukrainian, Russian, English and Crimean Tatar. The jury consists of the Internet audience, experts and representatives of anti-corruption initiatives. After the contest winners will be part of the information campaign, which will be held throughout Ukraine.