‘We Need to Change the Decision Making Process in Ukraine’ - Serhiy Kvit
Ukrainian scholar and education administrator Serhiy Kvit talks to Marta Dyczok about New Ways to Look at Politics, Information, and Exchanging Experiences
Hello and welcome to this week’s Ukraine Calling programme. I’m Bohdan Nahaylo for Hromadske Radio in Kyiv. We’ll have a roundup of the weekly news for you, some culture, and some music. We’re bringing you a feature interview with former Ukrainian Minister of Education and former President of the Kyiv Mohyla Academy National University, Serhiy Kvit
Feature Interview: Serhiy Kvit talks to Marta Dyczok about New Ways to Look at Politics, Information, and Exchanging Experiences
CULTURE and MUSIC
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Feature Interview: Serhiy Kvit talks to Marta Dyczok about New Ways to Look at Politics, Information, and Exchanging Experiences
Dyczok: Hello, I am Marta Dyczok for Hromadske Radio’s Ukraine Calling. Today we have a special guest Serhiy Kvit, who is a professor of journalism at the National University of the Kyiv Mohyla Academy’s Journalism School. Which he set up and he did such a good job that Serhiy got promoted and became the President of the university. Then he did such a good job that he became Ukraine’s Minister of Education. Currently he is a Fulbright Scholar at Stanford University where he is for an academic year. Dr. Kvit, thank you very much for finding tome to speak to us. Could you please tell our listeners what is the purpose of your visit to Stanford? What project are you working on? How are you going to use the experience you get at Stanford to enrich Ukraine’s higher education and journalism education in particular?
Kvit: Thank you, Marta, and hello to all our listeners. Of course Stanford University gives a lot of different opportunities for me. First of all, I am going to finish the second edition of my textbook on mass communications, on different media issues. That is really what I am interested in. The second thing I would like to understand is how American independent centres work and how they influence public rhetoric and the decision making process in the US. I mean independent university centres, and such centres as Brookings Institute, Carnegie Foundation, and other similar centres. I think I have enough time for all of these tasks. I also would like to mention, that there are other unique opportunities at Stanford University. As an illustration, on the second or third day after I arrived at Stanford I had an opportunity to meet with the former CIA Director. It was a really interesting seminar, off the record.
Dyczok: What was the topic?
Kvit: It’s interesting to ask such person what he thinks about Ukraine, about international politics. It was really interesting for me.
Dyczok: Since it was off the record, I cannot ask you what he said. You worked in the Ukrainian government as Minister of Education. Now you have chance to speak with American high level officials. What is the difference in a tone or content?
Kvit: There is one really big difference. In the US the system works. And the system is very helpful (supportive) for any state official. Of course any state official has special responsibility for his or her decisions and for politics itself. But the system is very helpful. This is the difference between the US and Ukraine.
Dyczok: How can you see/use that knowledge to implement changes in Ukraine?
Kvit: As I mentioned I want to understand how such independent centres work. First of all it’s about Political Science. I think we need to change the decision making process in Ukraine. We need to make it more professional. Our state officials need more reliable information. I think in the future maybe not only civil society will be a leader in different changes but also our politicians and state officials will be more proactive and more professional, especially in this decision making process. I think we need to change the process of how we find the most important solutions for our problems. We have a problem with process itself. It looks very post-Soviet.
Dyczok: Where do you see the role of academia and intellectuals in improving the policy making process? If I understood that is what you are interested in.
Kvit: Unfortunately, very often in Ukraine we have (relatively little contact) between activities of our state officials and activities of our intellectuals and academia, because our state officials maybe in our time have more close relations to our politicians. Very often they do not have any imagination about the topics of what they are talking about or dealing with. I think we should find more technological ways how our intellectuals and Ukrainian academia can collaborate, and influence activities of state officials and change it in a more professional and appropriate way. One of the main point of my activities as a visiting scholar at Stanford University is to understand how it works in the US. Civil society from time to time organizes some kind of pressure on the government, so that the government has to implement something.
Dyczok: They are pushing them to make changes. But where does the expertise to make informed decisions come from?
Kvit: One example related on our law on higher education.
Dyczok: That you participated in drafting.
Kvit: Right. It was implemented, and it was actually approved by our parliament in 2014. But for two years prior our community prepared the draft text for this law. The problem we have is that we have this difference between the Ukrainian and the English language, in how we use terms. In the English language we have synonyms. We can use “approve” such as “the Parliament approves the law” or “implements”… both mean the same. But in Ukrainian, the case of approving is different than the case of implementation. We could have many new and progressive laws, without any serious implementation. That is why there are a lot of things that we can borrow from the North American system, on how we should work more professionally and more seriously on the development of our country.
Dzcyok: One of the areas that you have a lot of expertise in is in journalism, communications, and mass media. What sort of expertise do you think the current Ukrainian government could use to improve, whether its legislation or implementation of laws regarding freedom of speech.
Kvit: It’s an interesting point that the post-Soviet era has its own specific and interesting peculiarities and features. Very often in Ukraine, it’s more important to change the practice than even change the legislation, because practice very often is something much more important and influential than implementation.
Dyczok: So how do you change the practice?
Kvit: In Ukraine, the practice especially in media is changing by those in the media, by active journalists, and by civil society. Very often this part of the professional community—fortunately I think—doesn’t need any advice or any new laws. But at the same time I think we have quite a good situation in media. Of course we still have different manipulative practices related to the activity of our politicians, media owners, and non-professional journalists. But at the same time, our society and our journalistic community are very active, and that is why we really do have freedom of speech in Ukraine.
Dyczok: So if I understood you correctly: the changes in Ukraine have come from below, by journalists who have pushed change. We’re now living in a world where ‘fake news’ and ‘post-truth’ is something that is a global phenomenon. Perhaps Ukraine and Ukrainian journalists have something not so much to learn but to teach other countries that are just encountering this phenomenon.
Kvit: Yes, sometimes some other countries can borrow and get something from Ukraine’s experience. I would like to mention some very important projects in the media sphere in Ukraine. First of all StopFake, which was established at Kyiv-Mohyla School of Journalism and the second one, Ukrainian Crisis Media Centre, which was established at the same time in March 2014. Both of these projects are very influential and how they work, I think, could be examples for our partners. It means that sometimes we can show how we can work quite professionally.
Dyczok: For our listeners who might not know about these projects, could you just very briefly describe what StopFake does?
Kvit: The StopFake project was established at the Kyiv-Mohyla School of Journalism just after the Revolution of Dignity in March of 2014. This is a fact-checking project. It works in 11 languages and we collaborate with different partners around the world, especially among journalists and public activists. This project was established by teachers, students, and graduates of our School of Journalism. That is why, because this project works in 11 languages, everyone can go to the Internet and look at how it works. https://www.stopfake.org/en/news/
Dzcyok: And what does it do? What’s the purpose?
Kvit: It is a fact-checking project. It means that we try to help both Ukrainian and the international public to understand what is going on. In the case of the Ukrainian-Russian undeclared war, it is not only a war against Ukraine from the side of Putin’s regime, but it is in fact the war which was started by Putin’s regime against the West itself. By the way, at Stanford University last week we had a very interesting presentation of one scholar from Belgium. And he, in a very interesting manner, explained to us what king of rhetoric Putin uses and what ‘history’ is according to Putin. As a subject, history is a struggle of Russia against the West. And this is the notion of history according to Putin.
Dyczok: That’s the Russian position for sure.
Kvit: I like one more idea that, according to Putin personally, Ukraine is considered as a part of the West. I think it is a really great achievement of all of our revolutions.
Dyczok: So, Ukraine has developed these expertise and fact checking to counter fake news that is coming out of Russia about what is going on in Ukraine. How can this be helpful to journalists in the United States? We have a President sitting in Washington who constantly says: “Fake news! Fake news!” So, how can this be useful for journalists in the States?
Kvit: You know that the most dangerous part of such activity like creating fake news is the final goal of such activity. But the final goal, if we are looking the activity of Putin and Putin’s regime, they are creating fake media reality. It means, in comparison to previous regimes like totalitarian Soviet Union, in that case we had wrong interpretations, but real facts. But today we are not speaking about real facts, only fake facts – fake news. And in Russia they are very successful, and in Russia they created, in fact, fake media reality. And it means the final goal of such activity is very dangerous and, of course, Western countries have only from time to time fake news from Russia Today, for instance. But final goal is domination and invasion, and aggression from Russia. That is why it is so serious for everyone today because we are living in the global world.
Dyczok: This is an opinion question. So, you do not have to answer this if you do not want to. But I am very interested what your opinion is about relations between Russia and the United States in the context of fake news? There is a lot of information that is being put in a public sphere. That is happened or denial of what happened. What is your opinion about that relationship?
Kvit: I think it would be better if we don’t use term Russia, but maybe Putin’s regime would be better. Because very often we have contacts with our Russian colleges who today don’t have the opportunity to show their opinion because of fake media reality in Russia. But I think it is a very serious question, and Putin’s regime tries to influence everything around the world. I seriously believe that they tried to change public opinion of Americans in time of the last presidential election. They tried to change the opinions of British citizens in time of voting for or against Brexit. They tried to influence public opinion of France or Germany or European countries when they have some elections, or they try to understand what their public would like to change within the country. And it’s very serious. I think that we should be active in such activity, and first of all, I think the first step is fact-checking. Also, from the other point of view, fact-checking is an activity for strengthening of professional media because professional media, professional journalists, try to work with a high level of responsibility and you know, what they –
Dyczok: What they are confronted with.
Kvit: That is why it is very serious, I think.
Dyczok: But professional journalism is under threat, I would say, in many countries for financial reasons, for this sort of post-truth.
Dyczok: Do you see that Ukraine will be consulted by journalists in countries like Canada, like the United States, like Britain, since Ukrainians have been on the receiving end of most of this activity and, I think, have developed models of understanding and exposing this —
Kvit: Yes, and I think sometimes we can speak about exchanging our experiences and some good examples because, Ukraine in fact is on the front line in against such threats in what we are talking about. And sometimes we can borrow from the US, from Canada, from Western Europe, from Australia maybe. But sometimes I think that our western partners would also be interested in borrowing something from our experience, because we are front line and we are protecting our independence in different fields.
Dyczok: So exchange of experience going both ways — so learning and sharing?
Dyczok: Thank you very much. We’ve been speaking with Dr. Serhiy Kvit, Professor of Journalism at the National University of the Kyiv Mohyla Academy, current Fulbright Scholar at Stanford University. I’m Marta Dyczok for Hromadske Radio, thanks for listening.
Kvit: Thank you very much. See you.
Georgians Deported from Ukraine
On 18 November the State Security Service of Ukraine announced that eight Georgian nationals had been deported for allegedly posing a threat to Ukraine’s national security. They were all linked to Georgia’s former president Mikhel Saakashvili who has become an outspoken critic of Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko and is attempting to create a political movement to replace the current Ukrainian leadership. During the week concern about the legality and apparent political motivation behind the expulsions was voiced by among others Ukraine’s parliamentary Ombudsperson and the US State Department.
Ukrainian Journalist Arrested in Belarus
Last weekend Belarus confirmed the arrest of a Ukrainian journalist, Pavlo Sharoiko, and subsequently declared a Ukrainian diplomat persona non grata. On 21 November Ukraine responded by expelling a Belarusian diplomat. This latest development has further strained bilateral relations.
EuroMaidan: 4th Anniversary
On 21 November the fourth anniversary of the start of the EuroMaidan protests in Kyiv that developed in to the Revolution of Dignity was observed in Ukraine as the Day of Dignity and Freedom.
Armed Coup in Occupied Area of Luhans’k
In the middle of the week an armed coup was launched in the Russian-backed separatist so-called “People’s Republic of Luhansk” by a faction led by its self-styled “Minister of the Interior” Igor Kornet. He refused to step down after being dismissed by local strongman Igor Plotnitsky and, after apparently receiving decisive military support from Russia and the neighbouring allied breakaway region calling itself ”the Donetsk People’s Republic, was able to force his former chief to flee to Moscow. It remains unclear why exactly Plotnitsky was ousted at this stage and what it implies. In Kyiv, in response to the concentration of Russian forces precipitated by the feuding among the separatists, President Poroshenko convened an emergency meeting of the Military Office of the National Security and Defence Council. Some units of the Ukrainian armed forces are reported to have made of use of the confusion in Luhansk to regain several settlements along the front line, but with the loss of several soldiers.
In the meantime more arrests of Crimean Tatar activists have been made in Russian-occupied Crimea. An 82-year-old veteran Crimean Tatar activist, Vedzhie Kashka, was reported by Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin to have died of the stress during the detentions.
On 23 November President Poroshenko met in Brussels with the President of the European Council Donald Tusk ahead of the Eastern Partnership Summit scheduled for the following day. He expressed gratitude to President Tusk for “the absolutely clear, solid and consistent position of support for Ukraine’s European aspirations and sanctions against Russia as a consequence of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.” President Poroshenko refuted media reports that had claimed he had considered canceling his Brussels visit because of apparent growing frustration with Kyiv’s pace of reforms and that in fact the results from the Eastern Partnership Summit for Ukraine would be rather disappointing. The Declaration issued by the Summit referred to Ukraine’s European choice and aspiration to join the EU. But it also stated that time had arrived to discuss bilaterally the progress being made in implementing the reforms connected with becoming associate partners of the EU.
In the war in eastern Ukraine, heavy fighting broke out in the Luhansk sector after the coup in the separatist stronghold, particularly on 23 November around Krymske, resulting in the loss of four Ukrainian soldiers, and two being wounded. A fifth Ukrainian soldier was also killed elsewhere. Ukrainian troops have reportedly reclaimed several villages in the area of the Svitlodarsk salient.
Donbas Think Tank released a short film this week, on Tuesday 20 November. On that day, exactly 100 years ago, a blue and yellow Ukrainian flag was raised in the town of Bakhmut. That’s in the Donets’k oblast. On that day, amidst revolutionary activities, Ukraine’s Central Rada issued the Third Universal. It designated Ukraine’s territory and declared a federal relationship with Russia. The film uses archival footage and photographs, and reminds viewers that one of the co-authors of this historic document was Mykyta Shapoval, who was from Bakhmut. The message of the film is simple – the Donbas is, and historically has been, part of Ukraine. We’ll post a link to the film and the NGOs website on our show’s page.
There’s a band called Nexstone in Kramators’k, which is also a town in the Donets’k oblast. They recently released a song in English called Imperfect. Although the English is imperfect, the vocalist sounds a bit like Bonny Tyler. Enjoy!
Next week we’ll be back with even more news, culture and music, so tune in again for a new edition of Ukraine Calling. We would be happy to receive any feedback from you. You can write to us at: [email protected]. This is Bohdan Nahaylo in Kyiv. Thanks so much for listening.
Interview transcribed by, Caroline Gawlik, Larysa Iarovernko and Nykole King. News by Oksana Smerechuk. War by Max Sviezhentsev. Culture and Music by Marta Dyczok. Music by Sound engineers Andriy Izdryk and Timothy Glasgow. Web support Kyrylo Loukerenko. E-mail distribution by Ilona Sviezhentseva. Special thanks to CHRW Western Student Radio.