If you found yourself in Kyiv on September 16, 2015, you may have been witness to an event commemorating the countless journalists who have died in Ukraine since 1991. The memorial event honoured slain journalist Georgiy Gongadze, who was brutally murdered 15 years ago when he uncovered and publicized corruption in the Ukrainian government. Countless citizens gathered on Khreshchatyk Street in the heart of the Ukrainian capital in tribute to Gongadze and other heroes, unnecessarily sacrificed, in pursuit of a right most of us take for granted: Freedom of Expression.
Attendees lit candles on Maidan Nezalezhnosti and carried signs depicting a kozak’s silhouette with an empty speech bubble above, with the simple, yet powerful text ОЗБРОЙТЕСЯ ПРАВДОЮ – ARM YOURSELVES WITH THE TRUTH – the central theme of the event.
This artwork, so simple, yet so effective, was based on an award-winning poster design from the 2014 Stop Censorship poster competition that took place in Kyiv. ОЗБРОЙТЕСЯ ПРАВДОЮ was honoured with the “Journalists choice” award, one of so many impactful entries in this competition initiated by the Стоп цензурі! Stop Censorship! movement. To me, it’s effectiveness is even more powerful considering it was designed not by a native Ukrainian, but in fact, one of few international participants – a second generation Ukrainian-Canadian, named Mark Mykytiuk, under the handle “MOPKBA” (my very talented husband).
Since the 2014 competition, Mark’s poster has popped up in exhibitions and demonstrations throughout Ukraine in Kyiv, Lviv, Chernivtsi, Ternopil, and Kolomyia; and in the Czech Republic, at a displaced Crimean journalists protest in Prague. The September 16 event in Kyiv received global attention and brought awareness to the current Poroshenko government that these crimes cannot continue and justice must be served for the lives already lost. The right of freedom of expression must be defended in Ukraine, the truth must be brought to her citizens, and justice must be served.
“Ми щасливі, що Канада є загалом дуже вільною країною і в ній немає ніяких серйозних проблем зі свободою слова. Але дискусія про свободу слова ніколи не закінчується…” – read more at Pravda.com.ua
Censorship in Ukraine has been a decades-long issue, and Ukraine still remains one of the most dangerous countries for the press. In North America, we sometimes take for granted the constant flow of information we are assaulted with each day – the freedom our journalists are afforded to bring us the truth and bring it in a dozen different ways. However, in many parts of the world, this freedom simply doesn’t exist.
What can we do as Canadians? Arm ourselves with the truth… Respect it. Embrace it. Share it. For our Ukrainian compatriots, and those everywhere who are not afforded this right, it is our duty to make their voices heard and end censorship.
Signed copies of Mark Mykytiuk’s ОЗБРОЙТЕСЯ ПРАВДОЮ poster are available here: www.etsy.com/shop/PtashkaArts
Mark Mykytiuk is a second generation Ukrainian-Canadian from Toronto. A professional illustrator, Mark graduated from the Scientific and Technical Illustration Program at Sheridan College after completing his Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Toronto. He is a Creative Director in the scientific/medical textbook illustration industry.