The role of civic and media activism in Ukraine

For the first time since independence in 1991, Ukraine’s president and the majority in parliament are from the same political party without the need for a coalition. Assessing the challenges and opportunities provided by this situation was at the centre of an event held on 19 November in Brussels co-organised by DRI and the European Endowment for Democracy (EED). The event was attended by over fifty participants from civil society, government and EU officials.

Panellists discussed the impact activists have had in civil society and in public life, something of increased relevance as many of them entered parliament after the July 2019 elections in which three-quarters of the legislature was replaced. The governing majority has introduced a great number of proposals and reforms to parliament as it rushes to meet electoral promises. In addition to this intense legislative rhythm, notable emphasis was placed on challenges in implementing reforms across the country, the importance of tackling the economy and the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

This was complemented by a session on the role of media in the new political landscape. The first challenge that was highlighted was the fact that while the political players might have changed, their communication techniques have not and there is still too little accountability to journalists. In addition, most Ukrainians continue to get their information through television, an old medium that is dominated by vested business interests. Panellists highlighted the need to clean up the media landscape through, for example, the use of anti-trust law. Some of the solutions proposed focused on media literacy, ensuring strong quality standards for journalists, strong local, community-based, media and support to public broadcasting.

DRI’s Ukraine country office focuses on helping grassroots initiatives monitor and advocate for reforms and engage with local policy and decision-makers. The EED is an independent, grant-making organisation, established in 2013 by the EU and its member states as an autonomous fund to foster democracy in the European Neighbourhoods and beyond.

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