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UNESCO organizes a session on Safety of Journalists in Ukraine War on the occasion of WPFD 2022

On the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) Conference 2022, on 4 May, UNESCO and the Global Forum on Media Development (GFMD) organized a session on the Safety of Journalists in the Ukraine War.
Safety of Journalists in Ukraine War

The dialogue, held in Punta del Este, Uruguay, gathered participants both in presence and online and highlighted the importance of ensuring the safety and security of journalists in times of conflict, so that they may report freely and inform the world on the reality of the situation.

The session provided a forum for discussions on the current challenges facing journalists in Ukraine, presented perspectives and experiences from media workers both within and outside of the country, as well as responses from the international community. The dialogue, moderated by Tom Law, Head of Policy and Learning from the GFMD, included participation of international and regional organizations, NGO’s and the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine (NUJU).

Free and independent media are critical for ensuring civilians have access to potentially lifesaving information and debunking disinformation and rumors, particularly in times of conflict. Journalists are frontline witnesses to the war in Ukraine, risking their lives to keep their fellow citizens and the international community informed. Indeed, since the start of the war in Ukraine, UNESCO’s Director-General has officially condemned the killing of 9 journalists, who have died in the exercise of their work to inform the world of the realities of war.

Ms Teresa Ribeiro, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, highlighted the importance of the work of journalists in reporting on the war:

First, please allow me to pay tribute to all journalists working in Ukraine. Imagine if we didn’t have those journalists in place, we would know nothing of what is going on the ground. [Their work] allows the collection of evidence-based facts, that can be used later to be presented to accountability mechanisms and courts. What they are doing is extremely important.
Teresa Ribeiro OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media
The issue of economic stability is very important for us, and it’s our responsibility to help Ukrainian journalists and the media to provide information to Ukrainian citizens.
Sergiy Tomilenko President of the Nation Union of Journalists of Ukraine (NUJU)

In this regard, Ms Rebecca Vincent, Director of Operations and Campaigns of Reporters Without Borders (RWB), highlighted the velocity of the reaction of the international community in response to the crisis, and in particular mentioned the rapid outreach and support provided to Ukrainian journalists at the very start of the crisis.

In addition, the conflict is also threatening the future livelihood and viability of the media sector and its workers, as a number of media outlets have had to stop their work. Indeed, Ms Daryna Shevchenko, Co-founder of The Fix and CEO of the Kyiv Independent, stressed that Ukrainian newsrooms should be funded for the long term, so they have the time and possibility to adapt to the changing circumstances.

Ukrainian newsrooms have to be provided with a runway: they have to be funded for the long-term, where they don’t have to worry about paying monthly salaries for a while, and can take the time to adapt to their new circumstances.
Daryna Shevchenko Co-founder of The Fix and CEO of the Kyiv Independent
The information warfare is not just online. We’ve seen the bombing of at least 12 TV towers. This has one aim: to deny citizens access to reliable information. […] It’s not easy to combat such disinformation, but one of the things that the international community needs to do is to enable the resources to develop fact-checking initiatives, and in the long run to promote media and information literacy for citizens to recognize disinformation.
Jeremy Dear Deputy General Secretary of the International Federation for Journalists (IFJ)

In his concluding remarks, Tom Law called for increased support of independent media and journalists in Ukraine, notably through the signature of the Perugia Declaration for Ukraine. Launched at the International Journalism Festival on April 9, 2022, the declaration calls for action from the international community to stand in solidarity with journalists in Ukraine and commit to intensifying efforts to support journalists in conflict zones. The declaration has already been signed by 11 Ukrainian media organizations and 204 international media organizations.

The safety and security of all journalists to report freely are essential to ensure that the world understands the reality and facts of the ongoing war, including the humanitarian consequences. We stand in solidarity with all journalists and independent media covering Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. The greater the threat to Ukrainian journalists’ lives, livelihoods, and ability to do their jobs, the greater will be our efforts to support them.
Tom Law Head of Policy and Learning, Global Forum for Media Development quoting from the Perugia Declaration for Ukraine

Since the start of the crisis, UNESCO has been supporting journalists in Ukraine, including by supplying   personal protective equipment, relocating the country’s two journalists’ unions to safer areas and concluding a mission to Ukraine to assess the needs of media workers. This session on the safety of journalists in Ukraine was organized in continuation of these efforts.