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Local news is the most trusted information sources

Local news is the most trusted information sources

Interview with Oleksiy Soldatenko, programs director at the International Institute for Regional Media and Information (IRMI), Ukrainian media NGO that is partnered with Fondation Hirondelle.

What are the challenges Ukrainian journalists face?

Oleksiy Soldatenko: About 80 Ukrainian journalists have been killed in this war and around 30 regional newsroom offices have been destroyed. Our project provides multilevel support to more than 20 regional media, most of which are either from the frontline or the temporarily occupied territories. Only during the last month have two of them lost their premises as the result of Russian shellings: Vorskla from Velyka Pysarivka (Sumy Region) and Trudova Slava from Orikhiv (Zaporizhzhya region). Lack of human resources is another challenge Ukrainian media face. About 50% of media say they are experiencing a deficit in reporters due to forced displacement caused by the Russian army shellings and Ukraine's mobilization rules. The preservation of local media is essential; they are on the front lines in the occupied territories. For many Ukrainians, local media are the only source of information people have to survive, and they cannot get this information from national media. Without international support, these media outlets cannot survive with their current staff and equipment capacities.

Another setback is reconnecting with those who fled. Displaced citizens in Ukraine turned to online platforms to find information and stay connected. That is why we are increasing the digitalization of media. Many of the media we are working with only had the print version at the start. Now they all have their web versions, and you can find them on social networks too. As part of the “Supporting the resilience of Ukrainian media" program, dozens of media outlets in the east and south of the country have been equipped and trained in mobile journalism. The use of the smartphone as a production tool has become crucial in this war-torn country.

What kind of information does the population need?

The information people need now is safety information that will save them from danger. Regional and local media are especially important for these circumstances. Local media discusses humanitarian aid, evacuations, transportation and other important issues for local populations. Information that people get from different sources, including public officials’ information sometimes, can disorient people. They need sources they can trust that have been fact-checked. Regional and local media help people organise their steps and plan for the future. By providing accurate and balanced reporting, local media can help to promote social cohesion. According to the latest results of the focus groups we conducted in the country, Ukrainians are also looking for more positive and human stories to remain resilient and keep faith in society. After more than two years living in a war context, it is normal that Ukrainians are psychologically upset. We are training our media partners on how they can research their audiences needs and transform this knowledge into content.

Who defines what is propaganda, counter-propaganda, and misinformation?

From my observations, most of the time, crisis -such as the war-, is one the best media literacy trainers. When your life depends on the quality of information you get, you become more selective and demanding with it. We should trust our readers and listeners more. They are quite aware of the one-sided information that tries to influence people. They are looking for information that is relevant and balanced. Trust is key to survival of these media outlets. That is why our media partners are involved in the Journalist Trust Initiative (JTI) certification process. I am very thankful to our international partners for this great support. We know how this money was collected, mainly thanks to the solidarity of the Swiss people through the Swiss Solidarity fund (and private swiss foundations*),  and we are appreciative and responsible with how we spend it in Ukraine.


* Fondazione aiuto alla cooperazione e allo sviluppo, Fondation Jan Michalski, Fondation Philanthropique Famille Sandoz, Fondation Genevoise de Bienfaisance Valeria Rossi di Montelera.