Ukraine lacks an informational strategy rather than an informational ministry and the Ukrainian authorities seem to continuously confuse one with the other. If you want to have a good information policy for a governmental agency, hire a good PR company, design a professional website, set up social network accounts, create a hot-line, and make sure your secretary actually answer your emails. The informational policy on the national level can and should be implemented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Institute of National Remembrance or any other government body.
On Tuesday, December 2, 2014 the new post-Maidan government has been sworn-in by Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. The government includes a new minister to lead the Ministry of Information Policy, yet to be created. The new minister Yuriy Stets argues that the ministry will protect the state from the devastating influence of Russian propaganda.
Yuriy Lutsenko, the head of the faction of the presidential party Block Petro Poroshenko, has publicly expressed support for the new ministry and declared that it will never engage in censorship of Ukrainian media. Instead, the ministry will be responsible for counteracting the Russian propaganda by providing accurate information.
I have read the project of the law about the ministry and have noticed a couple of intriguing passages suggesting the ministry will be able to exercise direct control over content of the media, their structure, and even their employment decisions:
Article 3: “…implementation of state policy in the field of information dissemination…”
Article 4 Section 38: “…establish, abolish, reorganize enterprises, institutions and organizations, adopt their position (statutes), in the prescribed manner appoint and dismiss their heads, create talent pool as head of enterprises, institutions and organizations under authority of the IIP Ukraine…”
These passages justify a concern that the ministry will have direct and indirect censorship powers.
In addition, the draft law contains sections about improving the quality of journalism in Ukraine. This is another example of paternalism. The quality of journalism is better developed by free competition in media markets, among journalism schools, and professional organizations rather than by ministerial control.
Nevertheless, let us put the worries about the undue influence by the ministry over the media content aside and focus on the challenges that are facing the Ukrainian government. Of course, there is a lack of a consistent informational policy inside and across the government agencies and there is widespread incompetence. It is typical to take several days to reach a press secretary of a government agency or ministry for a commentary, the contact details of such press officers are more secret than sensitive national security data, and press releases on the key issues of public interest are non-existent, or late and lack specifics. The state needs a unified information policy regarding nation branding, state image, and response to domestic and foreign criticism. Ukraine also needs to fight for the minds of those in the East of Ukraine and counteract the Russia’s attempts to confuse the West about the situation in Ukraine.
Yet, there is a simple solution. If you want to have a good information policy for a governmental agency, hire a good PR company, design a professional website, set up social network accounts, create a hot-line, and make sure your secretary actually answer your emails. The informational policy on the national level can and should be implemented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Institute of National Remembrance or any other government body. These bodies can fight misrepresentations and propaganda in courts, can prepare press releases their interpretations of the events, and serve the public with the facts that prove the informational enemy false.
These things are definitely not a rocket science and do not need any new government body to be implemented, just common sense. Of course good public relations is expensive, but there is a reason – talent is not free, and if the government would like to improve its information policy, it has to pay.
The issue is that the Ukraine lacks an informational strategy rather than an informational ministry and the Ukrainian authorities seem to continuously confuse one with the other.
The author doesn`t work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have no relevant affiliations