Archive for February 26th, 2013


A non-story that is a story – The missing Focus edition

February 26, 2013

Today I should perhaps be writing about yesterday’s EU-Ukraine summit – so of course I won’t be – as that will be covered to within an inch of its life by everybody else.

Instead, we will return to the freedom of the media, a tired but worthy subject and one that was no doubt touched upon directly or otherwise at the EU-Ukraine summit.

This article appeared in the weekly Focus magazine, issue number 8, 2013 – albeit temporarily:

Yanuk spending

The question is why temporarily?

The subject is the annual cost of President Yanukovych to Ukraine during 2012, in respect to his role as President.  These are not the hidden costs of lackluster leadership, failure to attract FDI, corruption, favouritism, cronyism et al, but things like security, transport and the normal expenses you would expect any head of state in incur at the expense of their nation.

A quick conversion to Euro would, according to the Focus figures, be approximately Euro 94 million.  I use the Euro simply because it is just over UAH 10 to Euro 1 and it makes the slightly more than UAH 1 billion spent far easier to understand.

A huge sum of money to spend on a head of state?  I honestly don’t know, but appears that way.  Particularly so if we are to compare it to President Kucha’s last term in office where his costs to the nation as President were never more than 50% of the above costs that are claimed by Focus.

That said, we are talking about a time lapse of almost 10 years between today and the end of the Kuchma presidency, and I can’t find any costs for the Yushenko presidency at the time of writing.  What is certain is that it is simply not a matter of inflation – though I also don’t remember President Kuchma globe trotting quite as much as the current president does – however perhaps he did and I simply forget.

Anyway, within 24 hours of this particular issue of Focus going out – it was recalled.  The on-line link to this particular page was also broken leaving any would-be reader with the “Error 404” message.

Unfortunately it appears that whomever was ultimately responsible for this decision has failed to realise that when something is published on line, removing it entirely is an impossibility as somebody somewhere will have saved such an image as soon as they saw it.  Likewise once a hard copy of the magazine has been sold, recalling every issue printed is also impossible.

Gene and bottle and all that.

So why was it recalled and links broken to this particular article on line?

Was it an editorial decision because the numbers are seriously flawed in some way, and this only came to light after publication?  That would show a degree of integrity far beyond that associated with the Ukrainian press, not withstanding the costs of recalling all printed issues and loss of sales.  Far easier to make a correction in the next issue – although that is not something the Ukrainian press are good at either – admitting when they get it wrong.

The other alternative is that pressure was put on Focus to withdraw the printed issue and break the on line links to this particular article.  Not that such action would necessarily make one conclude the figures quoted are right or wrong, as in either case, few would be surprised if pressure over such an article was put upon the owner and/or editor of Focus in such times of financial strife and severe imbalances between rich and poor across the nation – notwithstanding making President Yanukovych even more unpopular.

It seems, as of the time of writing, Focus is in a state of something similar to purdah – thus no mention of this event is being made whatsoever.  As such, whilst nobody likes to admit their mistakes, it seems more likely that this censorship of the media is not self-censorship due to error but due to external pressure.

As such, today, rather than ruminating over the EU-Ukraine summit as many will be doing, I will raise this issue instead – whilst allowing you to see what was briefly in the public domain via Focus and now back in the public domain here – whether it be accurate or not is down to the reader to either discredit or add substantiate.  I make no claims to the accuracy of the numbers quoted.

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