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Weekly's journalists resign in protest over editorial interference

(IMI/IFEX) - The journalistic staff of the Zaporizhzhye-based weekly "Ostriv Svobody" resigned en masse after a new publisher took office, according to the proUA online edition.

"We resign in order to protest against the pressure being placed on the journalists, against attempts to turn journalism, in one single newspaper, into a PR appendage aiming to achieve certain political goals . . . The objectives proclaimed by the new publisher, Valeriy Fomenko, that the newspaper become a 'tool of politics' is contrary to the spirit of 'Ostriv Svobody'", the journalists said in a statement. "For the first time, we got to know what the 'temnyks' (instructions from functionaries ordering the journalists what to cover and how) are, who is 'positive' and who should be smeared."

Editor-in-chief Natalia Vyhovska spoke to the new publisher and they reached some agreements whereby Fomenko was to be responsible for financial activities and Vyhovska was to determine the editorial stance. "But since the first days these agreements were broken by Fomenko and the conflicts began. He claimed I was not writing according to his orders. We even have an example of a 'temnyk', in accordance with which the journalists had to write their stories," Vyhovska said.

Vyhovska said the newspaper functioned in this manner for one week and failed to obey Fomenko's orders. Afterwards, the conflict came to a head and, on February 9, some hours before sending the newspaper to the printing house, Vyhovska received a document stating that she was not authorised to sign the newspaper to be sent to the printing house or even to stay at the office. The staff decided to follow her out the door and resigned.

Fomenko engaged a new team to prepare the next issue of the weekly. He said that technical issues caused the conflict with Vyhovska and that she tricked him by having the newspaper published at the printing house against his wishes. "This is a criminal case, fraud," he said.

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