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ELECTION MEDIA BLITZ FAILS. Prominent lawyer and journalist Myroslava Gongadze, speaking at RFE/RL in Washington, D.C. on 18 April, noted that voters in the 31 March parliamentary election in Ukraine "broke a barrier" in post-Soviet countries by ignoring manipulation of the mass media that elsewhere has skewed election results. Gongadze, who tracked media coverage of the campaign, noted that a study by the "Freedom of Choice" coalition of Ukrainian NGOs and Transparency International Ukraine (http://www.vybory.org.ua/indexe.shtml) (as of 22 April) found that nearly $7 million was spent by all of the parties contesting the election on advertising. Of the top six biggest spenders, three failed to earn a single seat in the parliament, and the biggest spender -- the United Social Democratic Party of Viktor Medvedchuk at $2.1 million -- earned the smallest vote total of those parties that qualified for seats under proportional representation. Gongadze raised concerns about the "tremendous pressures" exerted against journalists by owners of media outlets to support "the tastes of the owners," which "took precedence over informing the public." There is also evidence, Gongadze said, that the current presidential administration pressured mass media owners to support its candidates. Public distrust of the media has grown in Ukraine, Gongadze said, as a result of distorted election coverage. This has prompted journalists in recent days to call for a re-evaluation of professional standards and to seek ways to restore their credibility. Gongadze noted that 174 journalists ran for public office in this round of local and parliamentary elections. She said, however, that many of them continued their media work while campaigning. Having failed to remove President Kuchma through massive street demonstrations last year, Gongadze said that Ukrainians turned to the ballot box to voice their opposition to President Kuchma and his policies.
JOURNALISTS CALL FOR FAIR ELECTIONS. Ukrainian journalists attending a conference on journalist ethics and the 31 March parliamentary elections signed an appeal calling for fair elections. According to the head of the Ukrainian Commission for Journalistic Ethics, Volodymir Mostovoi -- who is also the editor-in-chief of the weekly "Zerkalo Nedeli" -- journalists who work for pro-state media outlets "neglect [their] professional ethical standards." ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Newsletter," 15-21 April)
ELECTION INVALIDATED IN CONSTITUENCY OF KUCHMA'S OPPONENT. The Central Election Commission on 19 April invalidated the parliamentary ballot in constituency No. 35 (Dnipropetrovsk Oblast), where Oleksandr Zhyr, the chairman of the temporary parliamentary commission investigating the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, appeared to have a good chance for re-election. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April)
BROADCAST LICENSES REALLOCATED. The Ukrainian TV and Radio Broadcast Council rejected YuTAR company's application to extend its license. YuTAR president Nina Khlus regards this decision as biased and plans to appeal the ruling in court. The National TV and Radio Broadcasting Council also named independent TV-5 the winner of the tender for a Zaporizhzhya channel which previously had been used by the Khortitsa company, which had been critical of local authorities. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Newsletter," 15-21 April)