These reporters and media execs shape English-language reader’s perception of Ukraine

On November 12 2012, National Bank of Ukraine’s TV channel БТБ (ООО “Банковское телевидение”) sealed a content distribution deal with Bloomberg Television. A billboard in Kramatorsk, Eastern Ukraine summons the commoner to the screen, while an image of Bruce Willis in the background advertises a Russian-Ukrainian bank (Photo courtesy Andy Kozlov)

latest update December 21, 2012

These people translate Ukraine for the world. — We thought it was about time to put names of prominent media executives and reporters on Ukraine onto a single page.

Our list has no pretense to be comprehensive. We opted out of talking about the media people behind the Euro-2012 championship, the 2001 papal visit or Orange Revolution reports. “Let’s take a look at the day-to-day reports and try to dig up some pearls, identify trends” we thought.

James Marson is with the Dow Jones Newswires. He writes on such topics as ‘Ukraine Government Resigns.’ Freelancing for The Wall Street Journal, Marson lightened up the grim news picture of Ukraine by exposing “the particularly dangerous armed gang ‘Babussy Cat.’”

Nshunge Musheshe at Boryspil airport, where she was stuck for two days (Photo courtesy of Nshunge Musheshe and the Daily Monitor of Uganda)
Nshunge Musheshe at Boryspil airport, where she was stuck for two days (Photo courtesy of Nshunge Musheshe and the Daily Monitor of Uganda)

Roman Olearchyk has in his four years with the Financial Times covered Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. In his articles, you can read interviews with the likes of Ukraine’s largest poultry producer, follow Spanish “negotiator” Jordi Sarda Bonvehi as he breaches authority by signing an LNG terminal agreement with Ukraine and get a glimpse of Ukraine’s first steel mill in 40 years. The only saddening thing about these reports is that Ukraine’s capital is still named using the USSR-inspired appellation, Kiev. Booooh!

Inspired by Babussy Cat and .. another mobilizing Eastern European poster from the mid 20th century
Inspired by Babussy Cat and .. another mobilizing Eastern European poster from the mid 20th century

Marcel Theroux is not a big fan of “Kyiv” either, it seems. But this writer and broadcaster for The Guardian should be praised for “braving piles of human shit” under Ukraine’s capital surface, while his Ukrainian colleagues were probably enjoying crisp winter sunshine above. Here Theroux reports on Kyiv’s  shelters for homeless children. Did you know that UNICEF puts the number of such kids at around 100,000. “But it’s a contentious estimate: it includes children who have a home, but spend a significant portion of each day on the street.” Real hero Marcel Theroux!

Another hero Mark Townsend, home affairs editor for The Observer, has received a Human Trafficking Foundation Media Award for his article on Britain’s sex trade. It is the second consecutive year that Mark has been awarded the prize, with his Ukraine-themed article “Sex trafficking trade forces women from Odessa to massage parlours in Britain” winning in 2011. We can only wish more of his Mark’s colleagues in Ukraine could work this hard in uncovering stories.

Now to change the pace, we want to offer you an account by an Ugandan casual traveller (as she calls herself in the article) from Ukraine’s largest airport, Boryspil International. Stuck there for two days after she missed her flight, Nshunge Musheshe was eventually glad that she was  “not the only one that feels ..that Kiev International airport is one of the worst airports in the world.” Such an inspiring characterization, don’t you think?!

Back to our more frequent reporters. Shaun Walker is Moscow-based correspondent for the Independent. a British national morning newspaper published in London by Alexander Lebedev‘s company.

Even using the highly sophisticated research tool of Google, we couldn’t find much by Shaun on Ukraine. So, sacrificing our selection principles declared above: Walker on football and politics, Walker on politics and football.

Now if our memory doesn’t fail us there was a period when Shaun Walker contributed to Monocle, Steppes in Sync’s bible of a magazine.

Shaun Walker in Moscow (Photo from his Facebook profile, courtesy Veronika Dorman)
Shaun Walker in Moscow (Photo from his Facebook profile, courtesy Veronika Dorman)

“Three killed after cargo ship sinks off Istanbul,” “Ukraine parliament elects speaker after brawls” or votes to outlaw “promotion of homosexuality” are some of the titles of reports tagged with Olzhas Auyezov‘s name. Mr Auyezov is with Reuters.

So is Natalia Zinets. One of her reports — IMF presses Ukraine to raise gas prices –was written by Richard Balmforth with editing by Ruth Pitchford. Mr Balmforth helped Natalia in writing “Ukraine hryvnia hits 3-year low amid devaluation talk.”

Similar report on hryvnia drop we got from Ukrainians Kateryna Choursina and Daryna Krasnolutska of Bloomberg News. While Daryna asks “Can Ukraine Say ‘Ni’ to Political Squabbles?” and reports on the extended farmland sales ban, Kateryna tracks Ukraine’s soybean output and looks at Ukraine’s corn harvest forecast reduction. Editor James M. Gomez seems to be responsible for most of the two ladies’ reports. This is also the case in their collaborative piece “Grain Exports From Ukraine Seen Reaching a Record in November.”

B.East Magazine lined up along Monocle on sale in London (Photo from B.East Magazine facebook page)
B.East Magazine lined up along Monocle on sale in London (Photo from B.East Magazine Facebook page)

Speaking of the company all three of them work for, on November 12, National Bank of Ukraine’s TV channel БТБ (ООО “Банковское телевидение”) sealed a content distribution deal with Bloomberg Television. Now Ukrainian cities like Kramatorsk in Donetsk oblast are filled with messages summoning the commoner to the screen.

Deducting from this article in The TelegraphJonah Hull  is a son of the late Heidi Holland from Zimbabwe (leading authority on Robert Mugabe). In context of reports on Eastern Europe, Hull, a London-based roving correspondent, in his previous role as Al Jazeera English’s Moscow correspondent covered Russian politics, and the five-day war between Georgia and Russia in August 2008.

Now we may be wrong but Al Jazeera English did a story about the erection of Stalin monument in Zaporizhia in 2010. Our vague memory is that it was Hull who reported it. At a recent search attempt, we were unlucky to find the video on the web, though.

Walid Harfouche (Ukrainian Wikipedia on Walid Harfouche) is deputy head of the Ukrainian National State Television Company UT-1. According to the Kyiv Post, this Lebanon-born gentleman believes  UT-1 should report on the activities of the authorities only in a positive light.

Kyiv-based publisher and social figure, Mr Harfouche is also head of the NGO SOS! Racism. According to a Wikipedia article (written in a somewhat hard-to-read English), Omar Harfouch[e] is Walid Harfouche’s brother and a media and fashion personality with business experience in France, Libya and Ukraine.

UK-based film-maker Kate Blewett is of a different opinion regarding those in power and the media. “The impact on the government is always the slowest part of any campaign. The documentary is part one of my work and continued campaigning is part two! I made a film in China 18 years ago and I remain a Trustee of a charity I founded and we still push against the government, raise money for non-profit organisations to put into projects on the ground in China – and the adoption level went up 7,000 percent after the film! The Chinese government then invested $3.2 billion into their state orphanages.” One of Blewett’s most recent projects is Ukraine’s Forgotten Children.

Recently the Daily Beast described this British industrialist-turned-media mogul  as “a [suprisingly unusual] cricket-loving [Post-Soviet] oligarch with a weakness for spicy lamb korma.” Mohammad Zahoor (native of Pakistan and a former trader in steel production in Donetsk) publishes the Kyiv Post Ukraine’s leading English-language newspaper. The paper was founded in 1995 by an American Jed Sunden.

According to what we read on Wikipedia, on April 15, 2011, Zahoor fired editor Brian Bonner for publishing an interview with a government minister despite the owner’s request to drop it, allegedly under pressure from the government. Journalists on the paper went on strike in protest. Zahoor reinstated Bonner as an editor on April 20, 2011, ending the strike.

“Zahoor is the only crazy guy doing this—running an independent newspaper in this difficult environment,” Walid Harfouche told Vijai Maheshwari, Kyiv-based publisher of the lifestyle magazine B.East, who also happens to be former editor-in-chief of Playboy Russia.

Zahoor lost almost USD 60 million in his attempt to set up a Sky TV–like satellite television network in Ukraine. But he has learned from the mistake. “He sees his investment in the paper as a service to the community, and as payback for the difficult times when the international community supported his cause,” claims Vijai Maheshwari in the Newsweek article.

What to say in conclusion? We just wish there were more ground-breaking reports in English about the issues that help develop Ukraine and integrate this Post-Soviet nation of multiple cultures into the happy family of the world. Just something in the spirit of the UNHCR-promoted, Al Jazeera-produced documentary New Walls giving voice to female refugees in Eastern Europe. (See Kyiv Post interview with film producer Paula Palacios)

On November 12 2012, National Bank of Ukraine’s TV channel БТБ (ООО “Банковское телевидение”) sealed a content distribution deal with Bloomberg Television. A billboard in Kramatorsk, Eastern Ukraine summons the commoner to the screen (Photo courtesy of Andy Kozlov)

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