Press Freedom in Ukraine Compared to Chicago


During my first month with the Chicago Tribune I noticed one significant difference between people’s perception of the press in the United States and in Ukraine. It’s all about trust, and considering a newspaper’s or magazine’s credibility.

An example:

In my home newsroom at the Kyiv Post, we have a feature called Vox Populi that showcases opinions of ordinary people on burning issues. Although I enjoy doing this feature, getting it done is always a challenge.

I can’t even count how many times people refused to give their names when asked for a comment on the street. Finding at least five people who will give you their names and allow you to take their picture can become very difficult.

While some fear their answers will be reported inaccurately, many just fear to express their own views, especially when it comes to politics or social issues.

In comparison, several times in Chicago when I had to interview people on the street, everybody I approached was willing to talk and give a name.

Some may say it illustrates a difference in the mentality. It also has to do with the difference in the level of press freedom in two countries.

The U.S. ranks 46th in this year’s annual World Press Freedom Index of 180 countries, published by Reporters Without Borders. It still lags far behind many European countries like the top three: Finland; Netherlands and Norway. The U.S. also fell by 13 positions since 2013 “amid increased efforts to track down whistle blowers and the sources of leaks”, according to the Reporters Without Borders report. 

The report, in particular, highlighted that “the trial and conviction of Private Bradley Manning and the pursuit of NSA analyst Edward Snowden were warnings to all those thinking of assisting in the disclosure of sensitive information that would clearly be in the public interest.”

But the U.S. is still way ahead Ukraine, which ranks 127.