UNESCO completes mission to Ukraine to support journalists’ safety and assess needs

A team of two UNESCO experts, Guilherme Canela and Saorla McCabe, travelled to Lviv, Ukraine on 21-22 April to meet with journalists and editors and take stock of the main challenges and needs of the media.
Journalists’ safety Ukraine

The mission was also an opportunity for UNESCO to exchange with the national and international partners with whom UNESCO has joined forces in providing an emergency response to support independent media in the country since the outbreak of the war.

At an event organized at the Press Freedom Centre, UNESCO handed over a batch of bulletproof vests and helmets to the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine (NUJU). The first vests were given to journalists from the news services of the “Ukraïna” and “Ukraïna24” TV channels. Local fixers, stringers and freelancers, who often are in a more vulnerable position, were also included among the beneficiaries of this safety equipment.  

The Press Freedom Centre, jointly run by Reporters without Borders (RSF) and the Institute of Mass Information (IMI), has received financial support from UNESCO. Located in central Lviv, it serves as a resource centre for journalists seeking financial or psychological assistance as well as a logistical hub.

Addressing an audience of journalists, Guilherme Canela, Chief of UNESCO’s Section for Freedom of Expression and the Safety of Journalists, opened the event by expressing UNESCO’s solidarity with the news media community covering the war and highlighted the huge challenges they are facing. He also expressed UNESCO’s tribute to those who have already lost their lives since the war started. He made reference to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee which has said ‘freedom of expression and freedom of information help to ensure an informed public. These rights are crucial prerequisites for democracy and protect against war and conflict’. Therefore, Mr Canela concluded, “protecting the safety of journalists reporting on war and conflicts is a priority for UNESCO”.

Sergiy Tomilenko, President of NUJU, underlined that hundreds of Ukrainian journalists are in trouble today and in need of support.

Every day we receive dozens of requests from colleagues, including safety equipment, humanitarian assistance and organizational support for those who have had to evacuate. UNESCO's contribution to the safety of journalists is significant. We appeal to the international community to also introduce economic stability programs for all Ukrainian journalists. In particular, salary financing programmes for journalists that would help support their professional activities and allow them to remain in the profession.
Sergiy Tomilenko President of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine (NUJU)

The UNESCO mission also visited the new Journalists’ Solidarity Centre opened by NUJU last week to help journalists continue their work during the war. The centre can be used as a newsroom but will also offer training courses as well as equipment and financial assistance to journalists who have had to evacuate from other parts of Ukraine. The training courses will integrate UNESCO resources such as the UNESCO-RSF Safety guide for journalists reporting in high-risk environments, which has recently been translated into Ukrainian. Two similar centres were opened in Ivano-Frankivsk and Chernivitsi.

UNESCO’s experts were also able to visit the Lviv Media Hub, a recent project of the Lviv Media Forum. The Hub currently offers a shelter for journalists, but plans are underway to create a large co-working and networking space for online journalists.

The media professionals and civil society actors with whom UNESCO met underlined the need for support for journalists who have had to relocate, including in terms of office space rental and equipment. Addressing the financial challenges faced by media outlets in the absence of advertising revenue was identified as one of the most urgent priorities. With over 5000 journalists accredited to cover the frontlines, training on reporting in-high risk environments, trauma journalism and psychosocial support, as well as further provision of safety equipment, was another important priority.

UNESCO’s support to the media in Ukraine since the beginning of the war has to date included assisting with the relocation of the country’s two journalists’ trade unions, supporting the establishment of a hotline for journalists in need, translating a manual on journalists’ safety, and equipment and training.  On 13 April, UNESCO-financed online webinar on safety was attended by 50 journalists.  

These activities are all part of UNESCO’s mandate to promote the free flow of information by word and by image. They were made possible thanks to support from UNESCO’s Multidonor Programme for Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists, the regular budget of the International Programme for the Development of Communication, and the Global Media Defence Fund.