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The media, forgotten players in international diplomacy ©Lâm Duc Hiên

The media, forgotten players in international diplomacy


Just a few weeks before the international conferences on peace and reconstruction on Ukraine in Berlin and Bürgenstock, the Ukrainian media met at the Lviv Media Forum, a conference which for the past 10 years has brought together the Ukrainian media to debate the situation in the sector.

Since the Russian invasion in 2022, the Ukrainian media, particularly the regional media, have been going through a new critical phase. In addition to the challenges of security and economic survival, the energy crisis that has hit the country is undermining the ability to produce and broadcast on a daily basis and limiting people's access to information on audio-visual/digital media. What's more, the new law on the mobilisation of all Ukrainian men to join the army is draining newsrooms of sometimes a third or half of their staff during a time when they are already suffering from a cruel lack of trained and operational personnel.

I had the opportunity to speak in Lviv with Maryna Osipova, a journalist with the Visnyk Che media, based in Chernyhiv, north-central Ukraine. Visnyk Che is part of the media network we support in Ukraine with our local partner IRMI. Maryna fled the country in 2022, taking refuge in Alsace, France. However, she decided to return with her two children and resume her work as a journalist to provide the people of her town with the information they need to survive on a daily basis. She has been trained in new techniques, such as producing video and content by mobile phone (MOJO), and explained to me how vital the network of local media outside the major urban centres of Kiev, Lviv, Kharkiv and Odessa is and how it must continue to be supported. They form the cement of social cohesion within communities, between communities across the country and with Ukrainians living abroad.

Maryna and the Ukrainian journalists have been absent from the high-level discussions on the search for peace and the reconstruction of the country. However, now they are calling for the media sector to be given real consideration in the reconstruction phases. This includes the following financial support for the sector: equitable funding for all media, whether public or private; providing the technical, electrical and logistical infrastructure required for production; broadcasting to reconnect all the regions of the country;  and recognition of the sector as "essential to the functioning of society", meaning the already very small number of male journalists in newsrooms should not be mobilised so they can continue informing the Ukrainian population. 

The media have a key role to play in post-conflict societies. The Ukrainian society of tomorrow must have the tools to be resilient in the face of disinformation and propaganda. This requires a professional and viable media sector that can fully play its role as a watchdog for democracy and social peace in the face of dangers like polarisation, exclusion and corruption. 

Caroline Vuillemin, Director of Fondation Hirondelle