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INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS

Disputed Election in Ukraine

Aired November 27, 2004 - 21:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Matthew Chance, in London. Welcome to CNN'S INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, where we examine how the media are covering the big stories of the moment.
A nation divided, a disputed election and the specter of civil war lurking in the streets of the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, where tens of thousands of protestors are speaking out against what they and most of the Western world are denouncing as an unjust and corrupt election.

And while the world's press keeps vigil over the latest developments, it's proving a tough story to tell for the Ukrainian media. Up until Friday, many television stations were being pressurized not to show the protests. The first reports of mass protests aired only on Friday morning, when in a rare move the pro-government private channel 1+1 announced it will no longer succumb to censorship.

I'm joined now in Kiev by Yevhen Hlibovitsky, former anchor at 1+1. He resigned at protest at the election coverage.

Yevhen, thank you very much for joining us from Kiev.

Let me ask you first of all, it must be very difficult to cover this political crisis in Ukraine. How are the local media covering it when we around the world watch these hundreds of thousands of people on the streets of the capital.

YEVHEN HLIBOVITSKY, FMR. 1+1 ANCHOR: Well, the Ukrainian media has suffered significant pressure from the government. If we are speaking of big media -- big media outlets, until yesterday they were quite defendant.

Yesterday, the three biggest Ukrainian television channels overcame the pressure and they managed to start reporting -- doing actually professional news.

CHANCE: I think what's staggering, Yevhen, for much of us watching around the world, is that for the first five days or so of these mass protests with hundreds of thousands of people on the streets of the nation's capital, the main broadcasters in Kiev weren't even showing the population of Ukraine the pictures. What were people in Ukraine thinking was happening?

HLIBOVITSKY: Well, talking to people who live outside of Kiev, I can tell that there is definite lack of information, especially in the east of Ukraine, where most of the media are controlled by political or financial groups that are related to the prime minister or President Kuchma.

And people are quite disoriented. They don't really understand what's going on inside the country. They've seen the mass falsifications, but many of them were used to that still yet from Soviet time. So I can tell that a lot of people, especially in the east of Ukraine, do not really understand what is going on inside the country. They are quite confused.

Those areas that are covered by free media are actually OK. They understand what's on. They understand the protests. They see the oppositions of both -- the government and the opposition. They have access to all of the information available.

CHANCE: Now, you resigned your position as anchor of 1+1 television in Ukraine. Why did you do that? What controls are placed on the media in covering political developments in Ukraine that you weren't happy with?

HLIBOVITSKY: Well, I was not happy with the censorship. I was not happy with the fact that I could not report on what was relevant in the country, what was important for the Ukrainian community.

And obviously, at certain points it got to the point where it made no sense to stay further with the channel.

I was first moved from working live in the air and then several weeks after that I decided that my resignation could be a sign to other journalists that, you know, we are not afraid. We do not -- we are not scared of the government. We can actually go away and leave to sacrifice our today for our general tomorrow.

CHANCE: Let me ask you, Yevhen, to what extent do you think the Ukrainian media has had a role in propping up the leadership over the past several years, since independence? Has it done its duty in sort of holding that leadership to account?

HLIBOVITSKY: You know, I'd say it's all related.

Actually, media has always been the key issue for the government. Mr. Kuchma has had two enemies during his presidency. His number one enemy was political opposition. Number two was media. So they were trying to keep on tight on the media, and they were quite successful until the civil society started growing and expanding beyond the level of control of the government.

So I would say that the two things, the civil society and the media, go in together and as the civil society grew and became stronger, the journalist movement and people who are our consumers, people on the streets, people in households watching TV sets, you know, they grew in realizing their interests too, so we ended up being together.

CHANCE: I just wanted to ask a question as well about the dangers facing journalists in Ukraine, because just so people around the world understand, it's an extremely dangerous place to work as a journalist, isn't it, if you come into conflict with the authorities.

HLIBOVITSKY: If I understand your question clearly, because it's really noisy outside here, I would say that, you know, we got used to being endangered all of the time. It is really hard to believe, but we got used to seeing our colleagues, you know, every several months somewhere in a funeral. We got used to being oppressed. We got used to being hunted by the government officials.

At the same time, it made us quite a bit -- in an efficient way, it made us stronger. I believe that if we win now, and I am absolutely confident that we will, that means that the future Ukrainian media will be free, because that is a matter of not only professional but also personal existence for every one of us.

CHANCE: Yevhen, do you believe that given the fact the TV companies and the media are now reporting on these opposition protests, that that means the government's grip on the media has been permanently perhaps broken?

HLIBOVITSKY: I think yes.

CHANCE: Thank you, Yevhen.

Up next on INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, the enduring image of Falluja. How one incident has come to represent so much. That after the break.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHANCE: Welcome back.

More than 50 U.S. Marines and over 2,000 suspected insurgents lost their lives in the battle for Falluja, yet that scene of a wounded insurgent being shot by a marine remains for many the most enduring image. The reporter who captured it was embedded with the U.S. military, casting the spotlight on embedding itself and the challenge of what to show and what not to show.

To give us their insights, I'm joined in the studio by Peter Beaumont, foreign affairs editor of the "Observer" newspaper here in Britain and CNN's senior international correspondent Walter Rodgers.

Thank you very much, both of you, for coming here.

Let me ask you first, Peter, you're not a big fan of the embed system, are you? What is it about embedding that you don't approve of?

PETER BEAUMONT, "OBSERVER": It's not that I'm not a fan, I just think that there are serious problems with embedding. Partly because there is an issue of identification with the people that you are working with. It's a very partial view. Often you're operating under restrictions that are imposed on you.

And so there is a negotiation for access that actually sometimes makes the journalist's life more difficult. I think the Kevin Sites footage of the shooting actually shows that sometimes you can actually overcome those problems, and I think lots of journalists do overcome them.

But I think the other side of the equation is it can be very problematic.

CHANCE: Yet, you know, the fact that Kevin Sites came out with this quite amazing footage of the marine shooting the insurgent shows that you do get incredible access sometimes from these embeds, don't you?

BEAUMONT: I think it shows it works on a lot of occasions, but I mean, some of the other footage that was shown and some of the other reporting that came out of Falluja showed that there was often a tendency to identify very strongly with one side of the story.

Now, of course you do that. If you are an American or a British journalist with, you know, your side, anyway. But often you end up with this problem where you have -- you take up the language of the military. You know, you talk about precision targeting. You talk about -- your task in a way sometimes becomes their task and I think sometimes there is a risk that journalists don't stand back enough away from that.

CHANCE: Walter Rodgers, you've obviously been embedded and operated as a unilateral reporter, not just in Iraq but in other wars as well. Do you share that concern, that being too dependent on embeds skews our coverage of this conflict?

WALTER RODGERS, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: Not as much as Peter does.

I think embedding as worked very well, and I think the Sites incident in Falluja is proof positive that it works very, very well.

The one thing I would add about the Kevin Sites video is the following. And this is something people don't think about. You see a camera, and this is the range of the camera, 45 to 40 degrees. There are 330 degrees all around the back of the cameraman where we have no idea what is going on, and everyone who looks at a television picture, a television image, no matter how dramatic that image is, should realize that you're only seeing 330 -- or maximum 335 degrees of what's happening in any given situation.

So the context is very, very important. And the other thing I would add, simply, is when I heard that story, having been embedded once, oh, my God, maybe the guy had a hand grenade there. He was wounded, I don't know whether the was conscious or not. But clearly the Iraqi insurgents, the Iraqi resistance, have used suicidal tactics. I'm not suggesting that happened there, but I do suggest that a military inquiry is in order before we should have this rush to judgment.

I think the mere fact that you had that video shows that embedding works.

CHANCE: With the exception of the Kevin Sites incident, much of the reporting we're seeing coming out of embeds looks at the war, obviously, through the eyes of the American soldiers with whom the journalists are with.

Do you think that embedding kind of colors the way we see this war as primarily a challenge faced by U.S. troops?

RODGERS: Of course. But the context is still that 30 to 40 degrees of the angle that the camera takes in. That's all you're seeing there.

I would love to be embedded with the other side, except I don't think they'd have me. And I think Peter would too. It's a great story. But, again, I don't think they'd have me, and so we have to live with what we can.

I should also say one thing. I think embedding has evolved from what it was at the outset of Gulf War 2, which worked very, very well, to something which is somewhat different now.

I read Peter's article and he suggests there is military censorship. In the war, when I was with the 7th Cavalry, they didn't censor us. They forgot we were there for the first 20 hours. They forgot we were along on the charge with them. They were too busy fighting and going forward.

I think now as the military inserts public information officers, then you do have that tendency to have perhaps military censorship. I don't know. But I've never been out with them where they leaned on me particularly, and I was free to say what I wanted.

CHANCE: Peter, has it been your experience that you've been lent on, that you've been subject to that kind of censorship?

BEAUMONT: It's not so much a question of being lent on. It's being asked not to report things.

I was out with the 82nd Airborne in Falluja before the first heavy fighting in Falluja, and I remember there were some incidents and I was asked by one of the officers not to report something that I had seen while I was operating independently in the town because it was embarrassing to them.

RODGERS: You should have told him to go to hell.

BEAUMONT: I published it anyway so I mean, it's --

RODGERS: That's what we're there for.

BEAUMONT: That's what we're there for, precisely.

But there is still this -- there is still this attempt to try to influence, and I think the most dangerous thing in many respects is the longer you spend with people, the more you identify -- it's a question of identification and I think that's the same. It's not just true of embedding but any negotiations for access with people who can put you somewhere where you want to be.

CHANCE: We're running out of time, but I quickly want to get onto this issue of the enduring image of this scene in Falluja.

Other images like that in Abu Ghraib, they've become almost iconic, defining of the war. Is that fair, do you think, given what else has happened?

BEAUMONT: I think it is. I mean, I think it's fair simply in the respect that it's because it's an image in contrast of what we're supposed to be doing. You know, we're supposed to be the good guys. We're supposed to be there to help. And then when you see something that suggests to you that it might be a criminal act, that's why it becomes enduring. Because we're become rather used to sort of the burning the cars, the bodies, but there is something especially shocking about us not actually standing up to what we say we should be doing.

CHANCE: All right, Peter Beaumont, Rodger Walters, thank you very much for being here.

Up next on INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, CBS's nightly newscast loses its biggest star. Who will replace Dan Rather in one of the most coveted chairs in the news business?

Find out after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHANCE: You're watching INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS here on CNN.

One of America's most well-known newsmen has stepped down from his anchor chair. Dan Rather will no longer be the face of CBS's nightly newscast and as Aaron Brown now reports, his departure from this position comes at a time when news networks themselves are undergoing some dramatic changes.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AARON BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It just doesn't happen very often.

WALTER CRONKITE: I'll be away on assignment and Dan Rather will be sitting in here for the next few years.

BROWN: CBS did it famously, of course, in 1981 switching out Walter Cronkite, America's most trusted man, for a young Dan Rather.

Mr. Cronkite sat in that chair for 19 years. Dan Rather will have lasted 24.

ROBERT THOMPSON, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY: He was reporting during the golden age of broadcast journalism, civil rights era, the Vietnam era, getting dragged out of the '68 Democratic Convention.

BROWN: But with Rather's departure and the scheduled departure next week of NBC's Tom Brokaw, two of the big three network news icons will be changing, a golden age no more.

RICHARD LIEBNER, DAN RATHER'S AGENT: People will fill their shoes but they won't have the recognition of doing it because there's less airtime available to broadcasters.

BROWN: Audiences for the network's evening newscasts have been shrinking steadily for a while now, viewers migrating to cable first, then the Internet, news on demand instead of news when we say so.

KEN AULETTA, "THE NEW YORKER" MAGAZINE: We're in a new period because the network audience has declined so much that the anchors don't have that kind of sway anymore. I don't know the answer to that and no one else does, by the way.

BROWN: So, by next spring, only the 66-year-old Jennings of the big three will remain in the chair, the last of an era with kind words, for a long time competitor.

PETER JENNINGS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: We recall his great love and sensitivity reporting on the military for more than 40 years. Dan said again today he's happiest as a reporter.

BROWN: For all the talk of cable, our audiences are not even half the size of the big three but that will no doubt change as well. It already has in some respects. The future belongs to something other than the big three we suspect, but what exactly and with what credibility? No one really knows.

Aaron Brown, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHANCE: I'm joined now by Tom Fenton, CBS's veteran correspondent who's been living in London since 1979.

Tom, thanks very much for being with us.

It's an incredible development that's happening in network news, isn't it? They pitch themselves on these star anchors. Things are going to be very different in the future, do you think?

TOM FENTON, CBS CORRESPONDENT: This is the generational change. You've got Tom Brokaw stepping down next week, Dan stepping down in March but announced this week, and that will leave only Peter Jennings as the anchor with experience.

It marks -- it will mark a different breed of journalist coming in, too, because the next generation of anchors will not have had the extensive foreign experience that Dan Rather has had or that Brokaw has had.

CHANCE: They've covered a lot overseas. They've been very willing anchors to go overseas as well. How do you think the fact that the new generation may not have as much foreign experience will impact on the content of the newscasts?

FENTON: Well, it will show up, I would imagine, in the sort of things that the anchor does, the interviews that the anchor conducts from his own perch. The input that he puts into the program. It's a loss.

It's a shame that the networks didn't have the forethought to prepare people for the succession, to give them -- to send them out as Peter Jennings was sent out. Peter started out very early as a junior, a boy standup anchor for ABC, and it was literally standup. He'd standup in front of (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

He was then sent out for several decades and he worked in Beirut, he worked in Rome, he worked in London, and he came back a fully-fledged, rounded, experienced correspondent with a lot of foreign experience.

CHANCE: And do you think this is going to have an impact on the kind of news that the American public get? I mean, after all, the golden age of the networks is over, isn't it? I mean, people get news from other avenues.

FENTON: People do, and yet most people get most of their foreign and domestic news from television. Believe it or not, still.

The Web is a smaller -- much, much smaller part of the pie. Magazines are a smaller part of the pie. So are newspapers. But it will change the content.

The problem now is that there is so little foreign news on -- CNN excepted, of course -- on American network television. The average program, evening news program, will have maybe one foreign news story a night, and that's 1 minute 45 and very little context, and I would suspect that instead of getting better, this may get worse, when you insert an anchor who himself has very little foreign experience and perhaps is more oriented domestically.

CHANCE: Dan Rather himself has had quite a controversial career in many ways. In fact, some people say that his departure, which is somewhat earlier than had been expected, was to deal with his sort of botched report on the President Bush National Guard story. Is that something that is credible, do you think?

FENTON: I think it's possibly true, and I would even say probably true, that the announcement of his departure was precipitated by this so- called Memogate.

He had, however been talking with CBS management ever since last summer about the changeover. It possibly could have come later than now.

The timing of the announcement was very interesting, because next week Brokaw leaves and then perhaps the week after that we'll have the report of this two-man commission that CBS has put together to look into that botched story, as you call it. So there will be a little space between Dan's announcing that he's stepping down and the report.

I have no idea what the report will come up with.

CHANCE: Nevertheless, it sends quite a message, doesn't it, about what happens to even the most powerful people in the media if they dare to cross the White House.

FENTON: It's more than that. I don't think it's just a question of crossing the White House. This is a question of a story that Dan himself has said was faulty.

The memorandums which he was relying on was sort of a walk-in story. Someone had come to CBS with these memorandums. Turned out to have been funny. They may well have been -- the intent of the memos may well have been true, but the actual memos were reproduced by somebody. Now, that's a fault of the system and that challenges the credibility of CBS News.

CHANCE: All right, Tom. One last question. What do you think the biggest challenge for news networks is in this post-star anchor period that we're entering into?

FENTON: The biggest challenge, I would think, would be to try to be more responsible to the public that we serve. To be not just more credible, but to give more context, give more depth, give more international news, ala CNN, if you wish.

I think post-9/11, that's absolutely critical, and I see no signs that there has yet been a reorientation of the networks towards broader serious news, if you will.

CHANCE: All right, Tom Fenton for CBS, thank you very much for being with us.

FENTON: My pleasure.

CHANCE: Well, that's all for this edition of INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS. Tune in again next time for another look at how the media is handling the big issues.

I'm Matthew Chance, in London, thanks for watching.

END

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