On October 12th and 13th, 2022, the Council of Europe organized a two-day regional conference “Media in Wartime” in Tbilisi (Georgia).
Patrick Penninckx, In his introductory speech, the Head of the Information Society Department of the Council of Europe said that the aim of the conference was to provide a platform for media representatives from Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Azerbaijan and Armenia to discuss common challenges and ways to overcome them.
“From February 2022, authorities, journalists and media in the region will experience new challenges and the acceleration of existing trends, such as B. Combating disinformation, combating the proliferation and uncontrollability of hate speech, challenges to journalist safety, expanding restrictions and spreading propaganda; and war reporting.
We see striking similarities in the media landscape in all five countries represented here. For this reason we have decided to offer stakeholders from all five countries a platform to exchange common topics/news and ideas on the future of media.” he said.
The Council of Europe is assisting Ukraine as part of the emergency package of measures for public service broadcasting, a media regulator that is performing important functions during the war. Local media organizations were supported to cover the war for local residents. Expertise was also provided on media legislation, journalist safety and media accessibility.
A separate panel discussion on October 12 “Media in Ukraine before and after February 24, 2022” where representatives of the Ukrainian media scene shared their experiences of how the country’s media landscape has changed in recent months and discussed the current challenges.
Svitlana Ostapa, The Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Ukrainian Public Service Broadcaster said that with the beginning of the all-out war in Russia, the Public Service Broadcaster of Ukraine had to perform three main tasks: to ensure the uninterrupted operation of the enterprise, to create the conditions for safe work of employees and provide verified information to the public without undue delay through all possible communication channels (television, radio, online platforms).
Already before February 24, several crisis scenarios were developed, which helped to quickly reorganize the company and take appropriate measures:
- Relocation of the central radio station and headquarters from Kyiv to Lviv;
- strengthening labor safety protocol during military operations;
- Ensuring smooth operation of all regional offices;
- Receive support from partners, including international partners, who have helped journalists obtain bulletproof vests, helmets, satellite phones, etc.;
- Introduction of insurance for correspondents working on the fronts.
“Since February 24, thanks to 24/7 operation of all platforms, the public service broadcaster has been providing Ukrainians with news from the first sources, the UA:Pershiy channel has a six-hour slot in the United Telethon of the main Ukrainian television channels and broadcasts it continuously . Suspilne is at the forefront of adhering to journalistic standards in this fundraising marathon,” She said.
Svitlana Ostapa also addressed other results achieved during the all-out invasion:
- secured Ukraine’s participation in the Eurovision Song Contest 2022, where the Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra won;
- the membership of Russian mass media in the European Broadcasting Union was suspended, Russia was excluded from the Eurovision Song Contest;
- European channels use Suspilne’s journalists’ stories to create news stories;
- Public broadcaster journalists help document Russian war crimes as part of global initiative “Break the Cycle of Impunity for Russian War Crimes”;
- produced approximately 16,000 hours of original television, radio and digital product;
- the investigative film Bucha 2022 about the crimes of the Russian military was released;
According to Gradus Research, Ukrainians’ trust in Suspilne.News is 87% today.
Olga Rudenko, Editor-in-Chief of the Kyiv Independent, shared her experience developing the newly created editorial office in wartime conditions. Launched in November 2021, the online edition faced the challenges of war within a few months, and in that time the editorial board has grown readership from 14,000 a month to one million. Kyiv Independent is funded by readers.
“Since we publish materials exclusively in English, our mission is to inform the whole world about what is happening in Ukraine. And with a full-scale invasion, that mission became especially important.” remarked the editor-in-chief.
The editorial team currently consists of more than 30 people, most of whom are Ukrainians, but there are also journalists from Canada, France, Australia, etc. When the large-scale invasion of Russia began, the team was much smaller, had a small space to work , and the biggest fear was that the internet would disappear and it would be impossible to transmit information. Since February 24, the editorial team has been working around the clock on reporting on the events of the war for an international audience, all resources are dedicated only to this goal.
Olha Rudenko stressed that one of the key challenges for independent Ukrainian media is funding. The partnership with other organizations also plays an important role.
Olena Leptuga, The editor-in-chief of the media group Nakypilo (Kharkiv) said that the organization had already discussed the action plan before the war started, since Kharkiv region borders with Russia, as well as Donetsk and Luhansk regions, it is important to prepare.
The new action plan included in particular:
- stocks of food and medicines, cash;
- creating conditions in the editorial office, which became a safe haven not only for journalists, but also for those who needed them;
- partial team move.
According to Olena Leptuga, regional independent media always lacked money during the war. “But I am very proud of my team, which did not stop its work in Kharkiv for a single moment, which in different situations adhered to the standards of the profession, fought against disinformation and helped colleagues from abroad. Regional media are up to date on the front line of this war. I also thank all international organizations that help us to work in the conditions of war and to tell the truth about it.” She said.
Olga HerasymyukChairman of the National Television and Radio Council of Ukraine, recalled not only the danger of Russian missiles, but also Russian disinformation aimed at spreading panic among Ukrainians.
“The activity of the Ukrainian media during the Russian aggression is subordinated to a single national goal – physical and informational resistance to the invaders. Unfortunately, the enemy understands the importance of our information warfare – when the Russians enter Ukrainian cities and villages, they destroy all information infrastructure, aim at TV towers. But the devices will be repaired as soon as possible. Networks are sometimes repaired even under attack.” She said.
Olga Herasymiyuk added that by September 1, 2022, 128 stations stopped working due to the full-scale invasion of Russia, 124 companies lost their equipment partially or completely, the amount of material losses is more than $10 million. and thousands of people have lost their jobs.
As she said, the national regulatory body supports Ukrainian broadcasters in every possible way during the war. Even before the invasion, a number of training sessions were held for regional media on how journalists should behave in emergency situations, how to communicate with the authorities, etc. The National Council also appealed to the security service, the Ministry of the Interior and the General Staff with a request to establish communication with the media in the first place.
The National TV and Radio Council of Ukraine also initiated the ban on Russian media in European countries.
Galina Petrenko, Director of CSO “Detector Media”, recalled that her organization has been fighting Russian disinformation for many years and said that Telegram channels are currently one of the main sources of disinformation. She said that a few days before the full-scale invasion, dozens of new Telegram channels appeared, targeting specific settlements, which Russia then either occupied or attempted to occupy.
“Sociological studies on where Ukrainians get information from during the war have shown that social networks come first, and the number one network is Telegram, which is the easiest way to spread disinformation. And even a year ago, only 12% of Internet users used Internet Telegram as a source of information,” She said.
On October 12, the photo exhibition “The Russian war against Ukraine: the work of journalists” was also held.
In general, the conference offered five thematic panel sessions, focusing on the main challenges faced by the media in times of war and armed conflict:
- Security of journalists during the war: mission (im)posible?
- Combating information disruption and propaganda
- Hate speech in the media: how did the Russian aggression against Ukraine accelerate existing challenges (for the media) and what’s next?
- Media regulation in times of war and armed conflict
- Conflict-sensitive media reporting with a focus on war reporting.
Media actors and journalists from five Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) as well as international experts from the Council of Europe discussed the above issues during the conference.
The conference is jointly organized by cooperation projects in Georgia, Azerbaijan, Moldova and Ukraine implemented by the Department for Cooperation in the Field of Freedom of Expression, Information Society Department, DGI of the Council of Europe.
The adjusted priorities of the Council of Europe Action Plan for Ukraine for 2018-2022 have been adopted and the project “Support for security of journalists, media and access to information, including a communication strategy for the General Prosecutor’s Office in Ukraine” is being implemented. It aims to support the Ukrainian media community in addressing current needs and consequences of Russian aggression and the war in Ukraine. In particular, the grants were awarded to Ukrainian public broadcasting and local media organizations to support their ability to function during the war in Ukraine.
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