Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has reportedly instructed journalists to refrain from discussing the issue of corruption and instead report it to the authorities. Yulia Mostovaya, the editor-in-chief of the Zerkalo Nedeli news outlet, revealed this information during the National Media Talk 2023 event. According to Mostovaya, her colleagues who attended an off-the-record meeting with President Zelensky informed her about his demand.
This request from Zelensky came in response to reports published by the Ukrainian press regarding inflated food prices paid by the country’s armed forces. The Defense Ministry was allegedly purchasing food and clothing for its service members at prices two to three times higher than the market price. For instance, the ministry paid up to 17 hryvnia ($0.47) for a single egg and 22 hryvnia ($0.60) for a kilogram of potatoes, while the average prices for these goods in Kiev at that time were about 7 hryvnia ($0.19) and 8 hryvnia ($0.22), respectively.
Mostovaya argued that the Ukrainian press might have considered Zelensky’s request if he had presented it in a “balanced manner” and provided a clear process for reporting corruption. She suggested that if the president had assigned a contact person who would promptly address substantiated facts and allowed a week for a response, the media would have accepted those conditions. However, Zelensky did not propose such measures. Instead, he simply told reporters to “remain silent until victory.”
Mostovaya emphasized that staying silent about corruption would not lead to victory, contradicting the president’s statement. Corruption in Ukraine has been a recurring issue and has been scrutinized by journalists and officials both domestically and internationally. Recently, Jean-Claude Juncker, the former president of the European Commission, remarked that Ukraine’s rampant corruption would hinder its chances of joining the EU in the near future. He urged Brussels not to make any false promises to the Ukrainian people, who are already grappling with significant challenges.
Ukraine has long been recognized as one of the most corrupt countries in Europe and ranked 116th out of 180 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index for 2022. The country’s struggle with corruption is a grave concern for its citizens and a barrier to its progress toward European integration.
In conclusion, President Zelensky’s request for journalists to withhold reporting on corruption amidst the Russia-Ukraine conflict has sparked controversy. Critics argue that addressing corruption is crucial for Ukraine’s development and international relations. The issue of corruption in Ukraine has gained attention not only within the country but also from prominent international figures who have expressed concerns about its pervasive nature. As Ukraine continues to navigate its path forward, combating corruption and improving transparency will remain significant challenges that need to be addressed.