Ukrainian Journalists Urge Media to Counter Russian Propaganda

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Lina Kushch of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine at BIRN’s online launch event. Photo: BIRN.

Ukrainian journalists speaking at Thursday’s online launch of BIRN’s new video project, Eyewitness Ukraine, said continued high-level international media coverage of the war will help counter Russian propaganda and disinformation.

“European journalists should reach out to cover the reality, to keep Ukraine focused and the better our chances of winning,” said Alya Shandra, editor of the Ukrainian and English-language online site Euromaidan Press.

Shandra argued that only a Ukrainian victory in the war can preserve free speech in Ukraine because Russia does not allow free media.

Other journalists present at the launch explained that the media covering the war verify the information provided to them by Ukrainian government sources despite the logistical problems and the risks involved.

Angelina Kariakina, news manager at the Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine, UA:PBC, said that “journalists on the ground are checking the news, but you need a whole car of [safety equipment] supplies” in order to get to the frontline areas.

Kariakina said UA:PBC journalists also consult “Russian propaganda channels and media” as a source of information to identify Ukrainians who have been captured by Russian forces.

“They have these videos of hundreds of people in prison, and you can see a familiar face,” she explained, adding that so far “around 7,000 people have gone missing during this war.”

Kariakina said the evidence gathered by journalists could be useful in future war crimes trials, and the media has already cooperated with prosecutors and legal experts. She warned, however, that it is impossible to collect information on crimes committed in areas of Ukraine that have been occupied by Russian forces, unless the escaping residents bring evidence with them.

BIRN’s Eyewitness Ukraine project is a new webpage featuring interviews with Ukrainian journalists talking about their personal experiences living and working during the Russian invasion of their country and the dangers they faced.

The war has already proved deadly for journalists. At least 12 media workers have been killed covering the conflict so far, and many more have been injured, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

Lina Kushch, secretary of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, said even more media workers died “including those on the ground”. [killed while reporting]those who enlisted as soldiers and those who were killed when their towns were bombed”.

Asked how journalists should prepare if the war continues for several more months, Kushch replied: “Our advice is to prepare for anything.

European Federation of Journalists President Maja Sever said at the launch event that she was “amazed that journalists in Ukraine have the will to fight for the truth” given the difficulties they face .

Sever urged journalists from other countries to continue to show their support and solidarity with their Ukrainian colleagues.

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