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The Digital Switch in the Post-Soviet Space: A Tool for Dictatorship or Democracy?


Over 50 people attended CIMA’s discussion, co-hosted with the National Endowment for Democracy’s Europe Program, Internews, and the Independent Association of Broadcasters of Ukraine. The event focused on the transition to digital broadcasting in post-Soviet countries, which could lead to the demise of independent national networks, as well as regional and local news outlets. Non-transparent tenders, lack of guarantees for current broadcasting companies, and the creation of broadcasting monopolies demonstrate the use of media by authoritarian regimes for their own political gain. One of the most striking examples of this trend can be found in Ukraine, where significant achievements in freedom of speech have been reversed by decisions of public officials. Since the beginning of the transition, 80 percent of local and 30 percent of regional companies have lost their broadcasting licenses. Under the government’s patronage, a powerful private operator was created which has a monopoly over digital spectrum and is not subject to any state regulations. By 2015, when Ukraine holds presidential elections, most sources of information will be controlled by state companies. To address these issues, panelists presented the latest developments in digitalization in the region and discussed options for democratic and free speech activists.


The National Endowment for Democracy’s Europe Program and

the Center for International Media Assistance,

Internews, and the Independent Association of Broadcasters of Ukraine

at the National Endowment for Democracy

invite you to a panel discussion on

The Digital Switch in the Post-Soviet Space:

A Tool for Dictatorship or Democracy?

Featuring:

John Burgess

Author, Throwing the Switch: Challenges in the Conversion to Digital Broadcasting

Meg Gaydosik

USAID*

Kateryna Myasnykova

Independent Association of Broadcasters of Ukraine

Rita Ruduša

Open Society Media Program (via Skype)

Maria Rasner

Formerly with Internews

Arsen Kharatyan

Voice of America

Moderated by:

Joanna Rohozinska

National Endowment for Democracy

Thursday, April 12, 2012

9:30 – 11:30 a.m.


About the panelists:

John Burgess is a writer specializing in international affairs and technology. He worked for 28 years at the Washington Post, serving as the newspaper’s Tokyo bureau chief, mass transit reporter, technology editor, and deputy foreign editor. In 2009, he wrote a detailed study of the world’s transition to digital television, Throwing the Switch: Challenges in the Conversion to Digital Broadcasting, for NED’s Center for International Media Assistance. His book, Stories in Stone, relates the history of Cambodia’s lost Angkor civilization and was published in 2010.

Meg Gaydosik is the senior media development advisor in the Europe and Eurasia Bureau at USAID. In this capacity, she provides advice and assistance to USAID missions and policymakers on indigenous media development programming, freedom of expression, and access to information issues. Prior to joining USAID in 2006, Gaydosik worked for 11 years as an on-site media development consultant or project manager in nearly all of the Balkan and former Soviet Union countries. She has comprehensive skills in media management, operations and community relationship building, as well as internationally recognized expertise in the business, regulatory, and content production aspects of media development. In 2003, she was awarded a Knight International Press Fellowship and served in Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia. Gaydosik is a former commercial television station manager from Fairbanks, Alaska.

Kateryna Myasnykova has served as the executive director of Independent Association of Broadcasters since 2003. An expert at the Eastern European Institute for Media Problems and a steering committee member of the Global Forum for Media Development, Myasnykova has worked in the media sphere since 2001. She is a member of the public council of the State Committee for Television and Radio Broadcasting, the Parliamentary Committee on Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Information, and part of the expert council on media activity during elections. Myasnykova is co-author of the book, Legislative Issues of TV and Radio Broadcasting, among other publications on media issues.

Rita Ruduša is a policy reports editor at the Open Society Foundations’ media program, specializing in the countries of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. She came to the non-profit sector after twenty years in newspaper and broadcast journalism. Ruduša was one of the first special correspondents from Latvia, and based in Moscow in the early 1990s, where she reported for the daily newspaper Diena. She has also worked for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Prague and has extensive editorial experience in both newspapers and news agencies. Before moving to the UK, she was editor-in-chief of the public policy website, politika.lv, a respected, multilingual source of in-depth policy analysis and a regional leader in e-participation. She is also one of the very few translators from Czech into Latvian. Ruduša’s translation of Vaclav Havel’s Letters to Olga was recently published in Riga.

Maria Rasner served as Internews’ country director in Kyrgyzstan for four years and was deputy regional manager for Central Asia until April 2012. She oversaw many large-scale projects, such as television content production and distribution, journalism training, and legal advocacy on behalf of the media– including extensive work to support local broadcasters and the government of Kyrgyzstan in developing an action plan for digitalization. Rasner, a U.S. citizen and native of Ukraine, earned a master’s degree in foreign affairs from the Fletcher School at Tufts University. She has worked as a journalist for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Radio Echo of Moscow and has contributed to National Public Radio, WomensENews and the Moscow Times.

Arsen Kharatyan has worked for the Armenian service at Voice of America as a broadcast journalist since 2009. He earned his master’s degree in Islamic studies and Arabic literature from Yerevan State University and is currently pursuing a master’s degree at George Mason University’s School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution. Kharatyan worked as a television journalist at the independent TV station A1+ in Armenia. In 2002, A1+ was shut down by the government, and Kharatyan began freelancing with different news outlets, including preparing programs on Armenia for the BBC World Service in 2003. While in Armenia, he was involved in pro-democratic movements, including Sksela (It has started) and Hima (Now), advocating for human rights and free speech using internet-based social activist tools.

*Please note that Meg Gaydosik’s comments reflect her own opinions and experiences. They do not represent the opinions or policies of USAID.