Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was elected in 2019 because the antithesis of his predecessor, Petro Poroshenko.
73 % of the voters have been so pissed off with Poroshenko that they selected an “anti-Poroshenko” – the alternative of a corrupt profession politician who used pompous pseudo-patriotic rhetoric as an excuse for stealing, sabotage of reforms and financial catastrophe.
Poroshenko additionally guess on dividing the nation and pandered to a nationalist citizens to fire up struggle hysteria. He was seen as out of contact with actuality as he catered to a small hysterical bubble of Facebook customers whereas a overwhelming majority offline didn’t care about his bombastic rhetoric.
In distinction to Poroshenko, Zelensky, an outsider who had by no means been a politician earlier than, gave the impression to be easy-going, laid-back, fashionable and never dropping contact with actuality. He guess on uniting the nation by interesting to widespread values – financial prosperity, anti-corruption reforms and the rule of legislation.
Zelensky additionally promised that Poroshenko and his allies can be punished for corruption.
The irony is that, almost two years later, Zelensky has was a Poroshenko on steroids. It goes with out saying that Poroshenko and his associates keep unpunished.
On February 2, Zelensky imposed sanctions that included a sweeping ban on three Ukrainian tv channels owned by Taras Kozak, an affiliate of pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk. The channels – InformationOne, 112 Ukraine and ZIK – went off the air instantly.
The channels allegedly “threatened national security.” No proof was given, and no explanations have been offered. All the proceedings have been solely secret.
On February 16, the SBU – Ukraine’s Security Service – charged exiled pro-Russian blogger and politician Anatoly Shariy with committing excessive treason by spreading pro-Kremlin propaganda within the media. No proof was introduced for Shariy receiving orders or cash from Russia or spying for the Kremlin.
By shutting down the media that criticize him, Zelensky – identical to Poroshenko earlier than him – aimed to stop his approval score from plummeting even additional. It halved from about 40 % in May 2020 to round 20 % in February 2021.
Along Poroshenko’s strains, he additionally sought to whip up a pseudo-patriotic hysteria by focusing on “enemies of the state”, thus diverting consideration from the true issues – omnipresent corruption, lawlessness and disastrous poverty. In reality, his supporters made the argument that Zelensky “out-Poroshenkoed” Poroshenko himself – he closed the channels that his predecessor didn’t dare to crack down on.
Thus, Zelensky is making an attempt to draw the nationalist voters whom Poroshenko has courted and on the identical time cease dropping his pro-Russian voters by destroying the opposition media that cater to them.
There are a number of the reason why that is a particularly flawed, silly and harmful coverage.
First, that is outright censorship – extra radical than something Poroshenko has ever achieved. Any censorship makes use of benign excuses corresponding to nationwide safety and youngsters’s welfare.
It’s true that the banned channels have spouted pro-Russian propaganda and featured unsavory visitors and questionable journalists.
The freedom of speech consists precisely in permitting probably the most virulent, most disagreeable and most unpopular speech: it’s basically the liberty to offend. If freedom solely utilized to the speech that most individuals like, the idea of free speech would turn into redundant since few would oppose it.
There’s an argument that Russia’s army aggression in opposition to Ukraine justifies banning pro-Russian propaganda. No, it doesn’t.
Where are the boundaries of such “propaganda”? Nobody outlined these limits when banning the three channels, which implies that any media could also be arbitrarily shut down with none standards or requirements.
The Zelensky administration will certainly be tempted to censor any media that criticize it utilizing the slightest excuses even when such media are probably the most patriotic and pro-Western. This occurred earlier than underneath Poroshenko, when he and his supporters labeled his pro-Western critics as “Kremlin agents.”
Furthermore, even from the pragmatic standpoint of countering Kremlin propaganda, such bans are sometimes ineffective as a result of within the fashionable world there are many methods to bypass censorship except the state controls every thing – like in North Korea. Pro-Russian voters will merely use Internet information websites, VPNs to bypass blocks and satellite tv for pc TV (in that case they may resort to the much more virulent Russian channels as an alternative of the banned Ukrainian ones).
Second, an arbitrary ban with none procedural safeguards or due course of is a disastrous blow to the rule of legislation. Lawless actions by Zelensky and his cronies – primarily in opposition to his critics – will solely enhance any further.
Moreover, this childish coverage will certainly result in Kozak and Medvedchuk successful a case in opposition to Ukraine on the European Court of Human Rights.
This infantile public relations stunt will probably end in pro-Kremlin politicians and journalists presenting themselves as martyrs and growing their reputation among the many pro-Russian citizens. They will seemingly launch new channels that will ultimately come again with a vengeance and destroy the remnants of Zelensky’s score.
Instead of the lawless ban on the crucial channels, Zelensky’s legislation enforcement our bodies ought to have vigorously prosecuted Kozak and Medvedchuk to the fullest extent of the legislation – with due course of, correct proof and legitimate courtroom verdicts. There is loads of proof implicating them in wrongdoing, and such instances can be an accurate and grownup response to their actions.
However, Ukraine’s impotent, corrupt and unprofessional legislation enforcers are incapable of this.
Third, this coverage is harmful as a result of it tries to remove the signs somewhat than the illness.
Zelensky’s publicity stunt diverts consideration from the true issues that forestall Ukraine from turning into a profitable Western liberal democracy and successful the struggle with Russia.
For occasion, Zelensky helps the Russian aggressors by blocking a bribery case in opposition to his deputy chief of employees Oleg Tatarov. Zelensky can be serving to the Russian aggressors by making an attempt to fireplace Artem Sytnyk, head of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine – a physique that’s making an attempt to analyze Tatarov and different prime presidential allies.
Moreover, Zelensky helps the Russian aggressors by refusing to reform Ukraine’s corrupt judiciary. Due to his reluctance to pursue judicial reform, the International Monetary Fund needed to droop talks with Ukraine on a $700 million tranche on February 13.
The strategy to win the struggle with Russia is to create a steady Western democracy with the rule of legislation, zero tolerance for corruption and a vibrant free economic system. These are precisely the values which might be being destroyed by Zelensky.
The hypocrisy of Zelensky’s declare to be an anti-Russian crusader can be apparent.
Zelensky’s loyal Prosecutor General Irina Venediktova has appointed Maxim Yakubovsky, an in depth affiliate of Medvedchuk, as considered one of her deputies.
Andrey Kholodov, a lawmaker from Zelensky’s Servant of the People celebration, can be an affiliate of Medvedchuk. In 2018, Oksana Marchenko, Medvedchuk’s spouse, grew to become the godmother of Kholodov’s son. Medvedchuk was on the ceremony too.
In 2019 Zelensky’s good friend Ivan Bakanov, the pinnacle of the SBU, attended a party of Medvedchuk’s affiliate Grigory Surkis and acquired a $539 present from him, in line with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
In the identical yr, Zelensky additionally appointed pro-Russian official Vitaly Komarnitsky as governor of Lugansk Oblast. Komarnitsky has known as for uniting Ukraine with Russia and allegedly supported a decision by Russian-backed separatists within the Donbas in 2014, though he denies the second assertion.
Yermak and Zelensky
Meanwhile, Zelensky’s chief of employees Andrey Yermak additionally has ties to Russia and working relationship with Putin’s deputy chief of employees Dmitry Kozak.
Yermak was an aide to a consultant of the Ossetian Tedeyev household, which has ties to each the Russian authorities and ex-President Viktor Yanukovych’s pro-Russian Party of Regions.
In 2020 Yermak additionally triggered an issue by asserting plans to incorporate representatives of the Kremlin’s proxies in Ukraine’s Russian-occupied Donbas in a negotiation group. Later he was additionally accused of foiling a Ukrainian safety service operation to arrest Russian mercenaries, though he denies the accusations.
His statements and background have prompted hypothesis that Yermak favours getting Ukraine again into the Kremlin’s orbit.
Zelensky himself, a former comic and movie producer, has been doing enterprise in Russia for a few years, together with lengthy after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in 2014. Ironically, Zelensky’s Kvartal 95 studio offered a comedy present to a Russian tv channel simply earlier than the pro-Russian channels have been banned, prompting parallels with Poroshenko’s Lipetsk confectionery manufacturing facility in Russia.
Regardless of Zelensky’s hypocrisy, it’s true that enemies of a free society – such because the Kremlin in Ukraine’s case – can use its free media to unfold their lies and promote their pursuits. It’s an inevitable price of a free society.
But if a free society does relinquish this freedom within the combat, then what’s it preventing for?
By making an attempt to show right into a smaller copy of the semi-totalitarian Russian state that stifles free speech, Ukraine is dropping the ethical battle.
If Ukraine does need to turn into a part of the free world, it ought to reject the Soviet legacy of empty publicity stunts just like the closure of the channels.
Ukraine will solely turn into resistant to Russian propaganda when it turns into a robust, affluent and civilized nation – and the one manner to do this is thru selling liberty and the rule of legislation.
Then and solely then Ukraine can have defeated the Kremlin each militarily and morally.
This is why Europe shouldn’t be deceived by Zelensky’s public relations present. Brussels ought to assist Ukraine create Western establishments somewhat than the Soviet circus that Zelensky is constructing.