Oh the irony! After nearly 23 years of speaking up for Ukraine, the Kyiv Post could be silenced by legislation that seeks to boost Ukrainian identity.
The new language bill that parliament passed at first reading on Oct. 4 seemed at first glance to be a positive development.
Bill No. 5670-d aims to strengthen and promote the use of Ukrainian over other languages, in all spheres of public life. But it also threatens the existence of the Kyiv Post. That’s because one of the bill’s articles stipulates that all media in Ukraine — print, online, or television — have to be in Ukrainian.
Newspapers and magazines can be published in other languages only if they also produce a Ukrainian version of the same size and content, the article reads. They must be published simultaneously and distributed through the same channels as their versions in other languages.
The same goes for news websites: they can have multiple language versions, but the Ukrainian one needs to be the default. And all TV must be in Ukrainian, with programs in other languages dubbed.
If this bill becomes law, the Kyiv Post will thus be legally obliged to produce a Ukrainian version of its newspaper and website.
We have neither resources nor the means to do that. We would have to close, or drastically reduce our publication in size.
The Russian-language publications that are the bill’s primary target can automatically translate their websites into Ukrainian and get away with it. This won’t work for the English-language media.
Moreover, we shouldn’t have to do it. There are plenty of local media delivering news in Ukrainian already, but there’s only one Englishlanguage newspaper in Ukraine — and it’s us since 1995. Our job is to be a window into Ukraine for the English-speaking world. This is needed now more than ever.
The Kyiv Post has championed Ukraine, its independence and development of democracy, including promoting the Ukrainian language. Our role has been crucial in countering Kremlin propaganda and accurately covering Russia’s war against Ukraine, including from the front lines. Unlike some Western media, we don’t parrot Russian propaganda. We are a multinational team of mainly Ukrainians who live here and understand the nation well.
While Russian language is the target, even that is misguided. There are plenty of progressive, pro-Ukrainian media published in Russian. Patriots speak Russian too. The bill is a gift to the Kremlin propaganda machine, which will accuse Ukraine of oppressing Russian speakers. Pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine will reap the fruits in the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2019. And the Kyiv Post may not be there to document it.
So we call on the lawmakers who sponsored the language bill — there were several dozen — to amend the bill before it goes to final reading: either make an exemption for the English-language media or soften the language demands made of the media in general.
Otherwise Ukraine could lose its only consistently pro-Ukrainian voice in the English language.