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Wednesday, September 05, 2007





Backbiting or Backsliding? News Host Claims Being Forced to Resign Over Report on Yushchenko's Schooling Expenses

"Дочка президента Ющенка, Христина, сьогодні мала піти в 1 клас Міжнародної Печерської школи у столиці. Там уже в другому класі вчиться її старша сестра Софія, а молодший брат Тарас піде в дитсадок при цій школі".

"Як повідомляє агентство УНІАН, подружжя Ющенків обрало саме цю школу, оскільки там викладають багато іноземних мов, а також існують "європейські стандарти".

"Платити за такі європейські стандарти президентському подружжю доводиться чимало - 12 тисяч доларів на рік за одну дитину. І це без врахування харчування, яке привозять з французького ресторану, та підручників".

President Yushchenko’s daughter, Khrystyna, was today to enter first grade at Pechersk School International in Kyiv. Already studying there in second grade is her older sister Sophia, while her younger brother, Taras, will be entering the school’s kindergarten.

According to a UNIAN report, the Yushchenkos picked this school because it offers a wide choice of foreign language instruction, and is also a haven of “European living standards.”

The price tag for such European standards does not come cheap for the President’s family: $12,000 per child, annually. Note that this figure does not cover lunches, which are supplied by a French restaurant, and textbook expenses.


This is an excerpt from a newscast by Ihor Slisarenko, then a Channel 5 host, who claims to have been coerced into leaving the company, following an angry call from the Secretariat of the President.

According to Slisarenko, after his semi-editorial hit the airwaves, management demanded a written explanation, and then pressed for his resignation. Oleksandr Narodetsky, Slisarenko’s superior, maintains that the employee quit of his own free will. The Secretariat has also denied role.

Now, the million dollar question: Is this a case of backbiting by a disgruntled employee or, worse yet, backsliding toward censorship? One of the first to report the story, Ukrayinska Pravda is watching closely.

Is Channel 5 — held in high esteem as the ice-breaker of the Orange Revolution, in what was then a tightly knit ensemble of Big Brother media — reversing course? If any of that happens to be true, then, in the name of George Orwell, we shouldn’t wait until the end of this campaign. Let’s establish a “Journalist-Beater of the Year” award right away.

P.S. As I was about to post this, I learned that the Channel 5 board has decided to retain Slisarenko, and instead has reprimanded him for breach of editorial policy.

It turns out that the board has found him guilty of bias and misquoting. Well, makes you wonder what the policy says about newsworthiness and the public’s right to know. And finally, how does it square with the previous statement that Slisarenko left “of his own free will?”

17 comments:

Qatar Cat said...

Wow isn't it a little steep for Ukraine?

Premium English schools in Dubai charge about that much.

Anonymous said...

Pass out lie detectors? Unfortunately, there is so much coming down the pipe and so much mud slinging that it is difficult to tell what is what.

Just like the Segodnya journalist and the BYuT activists or Berezovsky's newest lawsuit.

From what I can see there is an increasing breakdown between the Pres. and the PM and no longer lip service is paid. So I wonder, when does it officially become declared a diarchy?

Luida

Taras said...

Qatar Cat,

A little too rich for your blood, huh?;) Welcome to Kyiv!:) Our GDP per capita (PPP) lags yours by a factor of 4, but luckily our cost of living gives us a 6-point lead:)))

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PPP)_per_capita
http://www.citymayors.com/features/cost_survey.html

In the runup to the Sept. 30 elections, such sensitive “back-to-school” info probably made some folks feel uncomfortable. Just think about it: How can one pride himself on being “the people’s president” in a country of such bizarre proportions, in a country of economic apartheid, in a country of segregation by status?

Let’s face it: A PoRNUNS coalition will bring more stability to cronies and more segregation to kids.

Taras said...

Luida,

Lie detectors, too, can lie, if the person being tested is a “lifestyle liar,” with a code of deceit deeply ingrained in their brain:)

I tend to believe Berezovsky’s story. From what I've read, he’s just a little upset about the poor return on the investment he made in containing the Kremlin.

The Orange Revolution relied on financial support, just like any other regime change in the rest of the world. But the money didn’t make Maidan. The masses did. Berezovsky’s money would have made little difference had people like us not braved the freezing cold — pro bono.

In the first days of the Orange Revolution, a security guard at a supermarket asked me to empty my pockets. My Orange outfit must have made me look like a shoplifter. A month later, it almost made me look like a superman:)

Diarchy? Wow! Gotta put that down in my vocabulary. Thanks for expanding my terminological horizons;)!

I must admit that this diarchy we have in Ukraine constantly challenges me to a lifestyle of dialectic diarrhea:)))

Qatar Cat said...

You shouldn't read those statistics literally. The GDP per capita will only tell you the estimates for the local middle class. Local being the key word, since locals only make up to 20% of the population.

The rest are expats, the majority of which have little or no rights and definitely no claims to that cushy per capita figures whatsoever.

And although some companies here would pay school fees, a vast majority of people cannot afford to send their kids to a $12K a year school.

Anonymous said...

Kyiv Post's take on the story re: 5 kanal journalist which brings in KP's mud against the journalist.

Journalist scandal erupts at Channel 5 by Nazar Kudrevsky, Kyiv Post Staff Writer

A scandal over freedom of speech is brewing at Ukraine’s Channel 5 (5 Kanal), which earned a reputation for objective reporting during the Orange Revolution of 2004.

At the center of the scandal is the would-be resignation of a controversial journalist, news commentator Ihor Slissarenko.

According to news reports, Slissarenko wrote a letter offering to resign at his own will and alleged he had been pressured by the channel’s management in response to criticism over his reporting. Citing sources at Channel 5, Internet news site Ukrainska Pravda reported that the criticism originated from the administration of President Viktor Yushchenko. The Presidential Administration has denied the allegations.

Nevertheless, the case has taken on political overtones, as the Party of Regions of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych has accused the Presidential Administration of cracking down on freedom of speech by allegedly masterminding the ouster of Slissarenko.

In an 11 a.m. Channel 5 news broadcast on Sept. 1, Slissarenko cited a UNIAN news agency report saying Yushchenko’s children would attend Kyiv’s Pechersk International School. In the report, he also said that the presidential family would have to pay “not little” for tuitions, pointing out that the cost would run $12,000 a year per child.

Slissarenko declined to provide comment to the Post regarding the situation. Slissarenko cited as his reason litigation that he and the parent company of the Post had been tangled up in before. The litigation was sparked by articles that pointed to his role in a university and publication that have been accused by Jewish groups and the Anti-Defamation League of spreading anti-Semitic views.

Slissarenko told the Institute of Mass Information, a media watchdog, that Channel 5’s management suggested he write an application to resign from the channel of his own will.

Head of the Presidential Secretariat Viktor Baloha said the secretariat itself, and personally Viktor Yushchenko, were not connected to the situation surrounding Slissarenko.

Channel 5 chief editor Oleksandr Narodetsky told the Post in a telephone interview that the channel’s “management has a low level of trust toward him [Slissarenko].”

He said the trust was lost not only due to the tuition report, but as a result of other incidents of unbalanced reporting by Slissarenko, as well as a range of other reasons, which forced the channel’s management to come to its conclusion regarding Slissarenko, said Narodetsky.

As to whether Slissarenko was pressured by the channel, Narodetsky said: “It is not pressure, it is the conclusion that the management made.”

“I informed him [Slissarenko] about the catastrophic decrease of trust on the part of management toward him. He [Slissarenko] said that meant that he needed to write an application for resignation. I told him that he could do that. That’s all.”

Narodetsky said that the flaws in Slissarenko’s work accumulated over time, leading to Channel 5’s conclusion.

“We are not talking about the news broadcast about the president. We are talking about a range of cases that violate journalistic standards of maintaining a balanced and unbiased coverage of events, and correctly citing and correctly referencing sources,” he added.

Narodetsky emphasized that the entire situation “is not about the fact that he [Slissarenko] reported [about the cost of tuition], but about how he did it.”

He said that Slissarenko cut short the UNIAN news agency’s information about the tuition, and added information from other sources without referencing those sources. Information regarding tuition at the Pechersk International School is available on the school’s website.

Channel 5’s editorial board met on Sept. 4 to discuss the situation surrounding Slissarenko. According to Channel 5, Slissarenko was invited to the meeting, but he didn’t show up. Channel 5 said that the editorial board recommended that the channel’s management not satisfy Slissarenko’s application to resign, but to express their dissatisfaction with him for violating certain clauses of the channel’s editorial policy.

The board said that in the Sept. 1 news broadcast, Slissarenko provided only a part of the information that was available without referencing sources, incorrectly cited information from a news agency and with bias.

It also said that it had asked Slissarenko to meet with the channel’s management and the board itself to finally settle the matter. In addition, the editorial board said that it appealed to political parties and politicians not to speculate with the issue surrounding Slissarenko.

Slissarenko had worked at Channel 5 since April 2004. In the past, he has also served as vice president at Kyiv’s Interregional Academy of Personnel Management, and as an editor of the school’s publication, Personnel. Both have been accused of spreading anti-Semitic views by the ADL. In a 2002 interview with the Post, Slissarenko denied such allegations. He said that neither he, nor the leadership of the academy are anti-Semitic, rather, he and some academy leaders openly opposed what he described as unfair, aggressive and expansionist Zionist-Israeli policies in the Middle East.

Slissarenko served as a news anchor on 1+1, one of Ukraine’s top two television channels, but told the Post in 2002 that he was fired from his position at 1+1 due to his ties with the academy and its publications.

Taras said...

That’s exactly what I was driving at with my statistical analysis:)

Even in the oil-rich countries of the Persian Gulf, not all people, whether locals or expats, can afford that kind of education for their kids.

In free and economically developed countries, people have the right to know what kind of schools their leaders’ kids go to.

Taras said...

Kyiv Post amazes me!:)

The author effectively argues that Channel 5 hired this “incompetent” news guy — who also happens to be an “anti-Semite” — and all this time just didn’t know how to fire him.

And so the “school story” solved their problem! Well, not exactly: For some reason, they chose not to fire him. What a nasty surprise! I trust the Mossad to deal with the Channel 5 issue:)

Joking aside, the Interregional Academy of Personnel Management is indeed a shame, but I need more proof of Slisarenko’s culpability.

Note that the author, who appears to be a local, consistently misspells the main character’s name as Slissarenko instead of Slisarenko.

This raises equally grave ad hominem suspicions. As we know, incorrect double consonant usage has its practitioners in Ukrainian politics. Let me ask KP one simple question: Do you hire proffessors?:)

Anonymous said...

Well that is the thing about Ukraine - one can say ANYTHING with little fear of reprisal (except perhaps a court case which in a 'corrupt' system is completely suspect.)

New low in mud slinging - "Transportation Minister Mykola Rudkovky’s accusations that the leaders of the presidential secretariat are masterminding “large-scale terrorist acts with hundreds of casualties.”
UIAN 9/7/07

(And sorry for posting the whole KP article but they allow access to their articles then it switches over to subscription at some point.)

Perhaps putting truth serum in the VR cafeteria water?

Anonymous said...

"СБУ не знайшла правди в заявах Рудьковського й обіцяє, що останній відповідатиме за Законом"
http://5.ua/newsline/238//43880/

SBU finds no truth in Rudkovsky's claims and promises that he will face the law.
I don't understand how Rudkovsky can be prosecuted when he has immunity (Sept. 4th VR mtg. is 'illegitimate' and the Pres. has refused to sign the passed legislature from that day.)

Luida

Taras said...

Luida,

Feel free to put the truth serum idea in the VR suggestion box:)

I wholeheartedly support it. Still, I believe that anything short of a full-scale covert operation won't do the trick. Truth serum is not something that our beloved proffessionals will consume voluntarily, and will find it sweet for their palates.

Tymo: I’m not a girl…not yet a woman..:)))

http://www.tabloid.com.ua/news/2007/9/6/1866.htm

Anonymous said...

Eng. translation came out of the article "Unspoken" by Yehor Sobolev, journalist at 5 kanal.

http://www.mw.ua/1000/1550/60410/

My personal opinion re: Slisarenko (based on having watched numerous prior broadcasts of his to the firing incident) Slisarenko has in the past been opinionated and has exhibited prejudice against Yushchenko. But yes, journalists are human beings with opinions, views etc. Perhaps he could be shifted to a position where he could express his views rather in a position where he is bound to be objective? Sort of a editorial on tv?

Luida

Taras said...

Biased against Yushchenko?:) How?:)))

Just because Slisarenko stroke a somewhat editorial tone? What I need to know is this: Did he or did he not distort the facts? If Sobolev wants to address the real issue, he should tackle the substance of Slisarenko’s report, not its style. And yes, he should tackle the issue of censorship. What I see in Sobolev’s approach is an unwillingness to stick his neck out for fear of jeopardizing a sterling career.

Sobolev’s approach raises a host of legitimate questions, provided that we call this country Ukraine, as opposed to, let’s say, Uganda. The questions are as follows:

Don’t we have the right to know how much our President earns and how much he spends?

Isn’t $12K indeed a costly education for a country with a per capita income of $8K (PPP), or as low as $4K in nominal terms? (Since education requires cash outlays, we should focus on nominal dollars rather than on PPP dollars.)

Didn’t Yushchenko run as “the people’s president” in 2004? What happened to that president? Did he strike gold? Who poisoned him? Why doesn’t he name names?

Shouldn’t Ukrainian taxpayers compare their “European standards” against those enjoyed by public officials, regardless of their political orientation? What does it take to retain an employee who wanted to quit “on his own volition?”

Based on all of the above, I find no major fault with Slisarenko’s coverage of the story. As we analyze our leaders’ progress in raising Ukrainians’ living standards, we should apply double standards to none.

My final word to Sobolev: If the Donetsk-based TRK Ukraina suddenly took over Channel 5, you’d be out of your job faster than you can say “bias.”:)

Anonymous said...

Hold on - what Slisarenko did and based on the ZN piece, he has done before is editorial ad-libbing - he went off the script which had editorial approval on camera, live. This would tick off any boss in any situation!

Wanna do an investigative story based on the UNIAN material? Ask the editor, get ok and run with it. But 'spew' venomous comments or ramble off into speculation - is not real journalism. (Yeah I can hear u chortling, come on Ukraine? real journalism? well it does have to start somewhere.) And this is more than just exhibiting bias - this was sticking it to your bosses - they could not cut Slisarenko off in live broadcast and u cannot have a 'lone ranger' newscaster.

It is a complicated question - problem employee or courageous journalist? Unfortunately, for me it is swinging to the former as his unapproved comments was the stuff of tabloid not news. Do I think that the story is worth investigating - sure as are the finances of all the bigwigs and their spending. But do the work, get the 'goods' and report on it - news is not supposed to baba na bazari. (Though grams was often correct :)

Luida

Taras said...

I do agree with your emphasis on accurate and balanced reporting:) I also agree that Channel 5 could reassign Slisarenko to an op-ed role that would allow him to express his views without fear of reprisal.

Despite my lack of investigative powers, let me reiterate my position on this case.

What carries more weight here: style or substance? Is the information pertaining to the financial, curricular, and gastronomical aspects of education at Pechersk School International factual or fictional? Is it newsworthy for Ukrainian society? Was the Secretariat of the President involved?

Is the punishment proportionate to the crime? What’s at stake here? What spillover effect would this punishment have on freedom of speech?

By “letting go” of Slisarenko — only to “let him back in” — Channel 5 did little to raise the bar on objectivity for the Ukrainian media. More than anything else, it raised the specter of censorship, evoking memories of the 2005 standoff surrounding the President’s son’s conduct. Before I finish, let me quote from Larry King’s interview with President Yushchenko.

KING: A couple of other areas, there have been some questions about the lifestyle of your 19-year-old son. Critics complain -- I'm reading this from notes given me -- that he drives a very costly car, a BMW, he has a platinum-plated mobile phone, private bodyguards. You got angry at a reporter who questioned you about this. Is this the public's business?

YUSHCHENKO: Well, I think on the one side, this is the problem of the age. I will be frank with you, because you are also father of children. I am pretty much satisfied with my children; there are five of them. The oldest one is 21-years-old. That is the person who has good moral attitudes. He is the believer, actually. And I would say he is a mature person. His lifestyle is a common lifestyle for the people his age, and I do not think that there are any problems that I could feel pain. You know, but rather some things happen in this life, for example the same mobile phone. I do not pay any attention to these kind of things. I never ask any questions. I think all the phones cost $200 to $300 U.S. This is the impression that I have. I do not know what he has to do, or what he should do in order to pay $1000 U.S. for that?

Well, and it is not my way and I've got no attraction to that. But when it happens, during my campaigning, he was hit by the car, actually. He found another car to rent, and that car was brought into Ukraine and it was brought in by his friend. He's involved in these kind of things and that is his occupation. But it wasn't registered. And I told my son, please leave this car, give it back, repair your old car. And drive your own car. But it happened so that I left Kiev and I live near Kiev. And he didn't have any place to live, so he is rent -- to lease for the period of six months some premises to live until I complete the repair of my living space.

Well, but those are the details. In one case after another case, in such a way the image was created.

KING: The main thing: is he a good boy?

YUSHCHENKO: Yeah, he is a good boy. You know I feel pretty calm in my soul. I understand, of course, that sometimes I was over emotions, but I also believe that you need to get used to live in publicly.

KING: Ain't easy.

YUSHCHENKO: Otherwise it's not possible. Well, I think that was the lesson for everybody.

KING: Mr. President, I thank you very much -- an honor meeting you.

The president of the Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko.

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0509/18/lkl.01.html

Ugh, he should have dropped that article:)! I believe that Ukrainians — both the President and the public — should be thankful to the political pressures of this campaign for putting the genie back in the bottle.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting the way that Kyiv Post opinion piece used the event to highlight the problems in Ukraine's educational system and NOT to look at Yushchenko's lifestyle (ex. exactly how can this be afforded by the Y family?) I agree that looking at opulent pending while most Ukrainians dream of just making by is horrific and was gratified that UP for ex. was doing pieces on the homes of the political elite.

Luida

"Lead by example

by Editorial , Kyiv Post
Sep 13 2007, 00:26

Throughout his political career as opposition party leader and presidential candidate, and now during the parliamentary elections, President Viktor Yushchenko has campaigned as a man who is looking out for the interests of “little Ukrainians” and true Ukrainian patriots.

He rallied against the privileges enjoyed by the political and business elite during the reign of his predecessor Leonid Kuchma and called upon a great pride in Ukrainian history and culture.

This makes his decision to send his children to Pechersk School International seem very odd indeed.

Not that there is anything wrong with PSI. Since its founding in 1995, it has provided an excellent education to hundreds of children of diplomats and other foreigners who have been in Ukraine for short periods of time. It provides an excellent alternative to the difficulties of the Ukrainian school system.

But PSI is truly expensive. Tuition costs more than $12,000 per year.

Second, a quick look at PSI’s website reveals that education is provided in the English language and it offers an International Baccalaureate degree. The International Baccalaureate degree is a globally recognized degree for high schools that is accepted at universities around the world in over 100 countries, though by none in Ukraine.

As president of Ukraine, the country’s educational system is under the direct purview of Yushchenko. In his three years as head of state, we have heard barely a peep about the problems of the education system or his plans to reform it.

The problems of the system are well-known in Ukraine and obvious to any employer. These problems include poor teacher salaries, endemic corruption, and most notably, abysmal foreign-language teaching. In the purely human sense, it is understandable why the Yushchenkos would like to have their children avoid the Ukrainian school system entirely.

It is a shame that instead of leading by example, the president and his family have opted for the easy way out. Meanwhile, the country’s educational system is arguably an issue of national security.

The glaring inequality can only be rectified with a concerted campaign that will do more than promise higher wages for teachers and stipends for students. The goal should be to raise the quality of education in all of the nation’s schools to the same level enjoyed by teachers and students at schools like PSI."

http://www.kyivpost.com/opinion/editorial/27384/

Taras said...

I can’t believe it! Are you sure Kyiv Post printed this:)? I’m shocked and awed:)!

As head of state, the President should personify high moral standards, and should lead the nation by example, not by error. He or she should make a living by serving as the good citizen icon at home and as the image of the country abroad. Otherwise, he or she is just a waste of taxpayers’ time and money.

How can we have “one law for all” if we put this country through two “law schools?” Does the President realize that his actions speak louder than his words? Does he realize that they set the standard both for his friends and foes? Did it ever occur to him that his mixed messages make “One law for all” sound more like “To my friends, everything; to my enemies, the law?”

Of course, we shouldn’t single out our President. Our survey should include Yanukovych, Tymoshenko, and other prominent figures. Paraphrasing Michael Jackson’s “Black or White,”

But if you're thinkin' about my baby
It don't matter if you're Yu or Ya:)))


We must help our leaders stay true to the people. We must help them bridge the gap between words and deeds. We the people need leaders who practice what they preach.