After avoiding criticism of the authorities at the start of the war, Ukrainian journalists have begun reporting allegations of corruption by officials again. But wartime censorship and the army’s role in protecting their country from an existential threat has made reporting on the military a challenge.

Journalist Yuriy Nikolov was leaked evidence that army food procurement contracts had been inflated in January. But conscious of not wanting to harm the war effort, he said in an interview with Ukrainska Pravda that he went to great lengths not to publish them.

But when he approached defence officials with the findings and found their response “was not what it should be”, he said he sensed that the matter was not going to be pursued officially and decided he had to run the story.

Nikolov said that he and other investigative journalists paused their activities at the beginning of the war and had gradually resumed work in the autumn. “I will say that during the invasion, I have turned down many stories,” he said.

Despite the renewed vigour to investigate government officials, reporting on the military itself is curtailed by a combination of the wartime media restrictions, introduced on 3 March, and a widely shared sense that Ukraine’s army is protecting journalists too.

The wartime decree includes a ban on reporting the progress of active and planned battles, revealing a soldier’s name or face without permission, and reporting on the whereabouts and movement of equipment and troops and propaganda or justification of Russia’s war. Under the measures, Ukrainian soldiers are also prohibited from talking to the media without permission. A breach can lead to the removal of accreditation for frontline areas.

“We discussed [the restrictions] at the beginning of the war, among our media circles, but we decided to accept most of them because it’s a matter of our survival and all of us knew what it was like to live and work in a war,” said Oksana Romaniuk, director of the Institute for of Mass Information, which works to protect and boost journalism.

While some of the restrictions have been easy to adapt, the state has a monopoly on significant information because of the war – such as the total number of casualties, which is now classified information. Ukraine’s top general said the total was 13,000 in late November but graveyards across Ukraine, and the number of social media posts paying tribute to the dead soldiers, indicate the number is much higher.

“I think we will publish it when we know it, but again it will be discussed among ourselves first,” said Romaniuk.

While investigations of the state and government conduct are growing in online media, TV media, with the exception of the public broadcaster, has become a de facto mouthpiece for the presidential administration, said Romaniuk.

All the main TV channels have merged into one channel known as the Telemarathon, which broadcasts uniform news content across all channels. The editorial policy is closely connected with the incumbent government and presidential administration. It almost never criticises or questions the authorities.

The Telemarathon started as an emergency measure at the beginning of the invasion. But with its regular cohort of top officials and experts close to the president, it has also raised questions about freedom of speech.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/mar/05/ukraines-reporters-adapt-amid-media-restrictions-and-pressure-of-war