Restrictions and pressure on the media are going beyond wartime security needs, local journalists told the paper FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian leader Vladimir Zelensky speaks during a Q&A session with the media. © Gints Ivuskans

Ukrainian journalists and monitoring groups have sounded the alarm over attempts to curtail press freedom in the country under Vladimir Zelensky, the New York Times has reported.

According to media workers, restrictions and pressure on them from the government go beyond Ukraine’s security needs amid the conflict with Russia, the paper said in an article on Tuesday.

The authorities in Kiev are trying to make sure that the opposition, in particular the party of former president Petro Poroshenko, does not get positive coverage in the press, and that the government and the military are never criticized, the report read.

Late last year, management at the state-run news agency, Ukrinform, provided a list of opposition figures, activists and elected officials labeled “undesirable” for quoting in its articles, according to the NYT. Those blacklisted included the mayor of Lviv, Andrey Sadovoy, who is viewed as a possible future presidential candidate, it added.

The deputy director of Ukrinform, Marina Singaevskaya, resigned this year over what she described as political meddling by the authorities.

“If we name desirable and undesirable speakers, it is a big step back for democracy,” Yury Stryhun, a reporter with Ukrinform, told the outlet.

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Stryhun said he received a notice to renew his draft registration one day after he appeared on Suspilne broadcaster to talk about the government’s guidelines for journalists. The timing of the notice was “suspicious,” he added.

Last month, Ukrainian media watchdog, Detector Media, said members of Zelensky’s Servant of the People party accounted for some 70% of political guests on the Telemarathon, a round-the-clock multi-channel broadcast set up by the Kiev government as a single source of televised information about the conflict with Russia, during the first quarter of this year.

The only broadcaster that gave airtime to representatives of Poroshenko’s European Solidarity party during the Telemarathon was Suspilne, which had since withdrawn from the project. The channel’s leadership said its decision to quit the Telemarathon was linked to pressure from the government, the report read.

The paper noted that the Ukrainian authorities also had “tense relationships” with Western media throughout the conflict as they revoked military press passes for journalists from several outlets, including the NYT, following reports criticizing the military. However, credentials were later restored, it added.

It also mentioned a story that made headlines in Ukraine in January, when it was revealed that Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) officers had spied on reporters attending a holiday party of an investigative news website, Bihus, by drilling peepholes in their hotel rooms.

“The only way people can change things for the better is through journalism. That’s why some people in the government try their best to control it,” Sevgil Musaeva, the editor in chief of Ukrainskaya Pravda national news outlet, told the NYT. (RT)