Coverage of Maidan in the Western Media

News is basic information regarding current affairs. This can be given through a number of media: print, radio, television, postal services, wire services, internet, or by the oral testimony of witnesses and anonymous observers to major events. The importance of news is evident in how it influences the functioning of society. It informs, arouses, and sometimes influences societal action and policy.

Ukraine is one of the few countries where mass media play a decisive role in society. The dominance of the mass media is particularly pronounced in the context of current affairs and politics, but even in everyday life. Every single aspect of the social life of Ukraine is touched by the various channels of news: from medicine to clothes to food, from politics to art, from news about the neighborhood and city to news about the latest happenings in the global arena. The impact of the media is particularly pronounced on the citizens of Ukraine and the country as a whole.

As the country gears up for the presidential elections due to take place in early 2015, the importance of Maidan news is evident not only in the reporting on the candidates, but also in the coverage itself. Coverage on Maidan, the Maidan revolution, and the ensuing political drama that followed, have become almost a 24-hour affair. Almost daily new reports about Maidan are being released online and on various other media. The Maidan revolution, which took place over two months ago and ultimately led to the present government, can hardly be described as a momentous event, but as a series of events that have affected the lives of millions of people. As such, the effect of Maidan news in the ordinary citizenry has been immense.

As in other parts of the former Soviet Union, Maidan was able to draw widespread attention to certain issues that have had an impact on the everyday life of citizens of the former Soviet republics. The most popular issue that came to the forefront of public consciousness was the conflict in the Donbass region of Ukraine, where pro-Russian and anti-Kiev forces were battling for control of the region. This issue became a point of discussion at local TV stations that regularly aired Maidan footage. Another important issue that came to the fore during the course of the Maidan events was the rule of Ukraine’s newly elected president, Oleksandr Turchynov, who came from the far left. His election resulted in the ousting of the previously ruling parliament speaker, Yulia Tymoshenko, and the appointment of Oleg Shlyakhanov as Prime Minister of Ukraine.

As coverage of the Maidan events spread throughout the country, several stories appeared in the media on the subject of corruption in the Ukrainian government and the implications this would have for the Maidan process. Most stories focused on the phenomenon of public officials being involved in the embezzlement of public money intended for the Maidan preparations. There was much discussion of these and other similar charges relating to the Maidan preparations, with commentators claiming that both the government and the Maidan protesters were guilty of graft and selfish interest. However, it was not immediately clear whether these allegations had any merit.

As the Maidan events continued and the crisis became one of greater proportions in terms of the country’s political crisis, the Western media gave more prominent coverage to the Maidan clashes themselves, drawing attention to the escalating violence between the sides. The Maidan coverage also served to justify Poroshenko’s hard line stance regarding reform in Ukraine, and to justify his decision to call for the resignation of Tymoshenko as President of Ukraine. At one point or another, the Western media was prepared to promote the idea of Maidan revolution leader Vitali Zakharchenko as the next President of Ukraine. But it appeared that Maidan coverage had already achieved its desired effect, with the country being ruled by an interim government that seems incapable of carrying out the reforms it was elected to carry out.