SERHIY SHTURKHETSKYY / CHAIRMAN OF THE INDEPENDENT MEDIA TRADE UNION OF UKRAINE
In Ukraine, the political upheavals of 2014 and the accompanying armed confl icts have increased violence against journalists. And then there were tragic cases.
Mid-September… These days, for 20 years, Ukrainian journalists have been honoring the memory of their colleagues who died in the line of duty. These days, it is the time to ask the government, law enforcement, these days are for searching for refl ection in our professional circle. So, how to keep yourselves in the profession and… survive at the same time?
The issue of the safety of journalists is closely related to the general situation in the country and, of course, the growth of tragic incidents and violence against journalists in 2014 in Ukraine was caused precisely by the political confrontation and armed confl ict. And a signifi cant pain for Ukrainians is Crimea, where violations of journalists’ rights have reached the level of systemicity and even some kind of sad inevitability.
Years have passed and the “hot” phase of the confl ict does not seem to affect more journalists, but the matter of safety is not only the ability to survive, but also the ability to live and stay in the profession at the same time. And, of course, this is a complex issue, it covers not only the physical aspects
of the journalists’ safety.
Our trade union (Independent Media Trade Union of Ukraine, IMTUU) in collaboration with the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), is working on the safety of journalists in Ukraine. What are the directions of this activity?
Firstly, we recently have begun to pay attention to the problems of digital vulnerability of journalists, especially those who work in online publications. Discrediting, bullying, shaming, watching, data theft and fi nancial fraud are just a few of the all threats and problems that seem to have moved into the digital world after journalists. Therefore, we have been paying attention to this and, starting from 2016 we have been conducting trainings on digital security, and any Digital Security trainings now have in their plan a session of digital skills lessons for journalists.
By the way, it is the aspect of digital security that has become more relevant than ever during the quarantine period, and obviously, it will be relevant in the post-COVID period as well. After all, right now the part of online activities and online information in the world has increased, so journalists are forced to catch up and sometimes even outstrip these trends.
Therefore, online time dictates new requirements to online security. Secondly, we have witnessed the serious impact of the COVID situation on the mental stability (resilience) of people, and especially on journalists, who receive and process huge amounts of information. Fake information has sharply increased and its infl uence also increased, it even got the name of infodemic – when information impact against the background of a viral pandemic has tangible destructive consequences and can threaten not only psychological, but also physical safety of a person and the whole society. Since 2011,
on our trade union safety trainings, we have provided separate sessions of lessons and even separate trainings on psyclogical resilience for journalists. In 2014-2015, there appeared a necessity to help journalists who worked in the war zone or visited the occupied territories. Now, with the outbreak of the
pandemic, we have again introduced the component of psychological safety in our trainings.
Therefore, as a result of our response to modern challenges for journalists, we have implemented a two-day comprehensive safety training program, which we conducted in cooperation with the IFJ in December 2020 and we hope to repeat it in 2021. This training will include sessions on digital security, legal
literacy, psychological stability, physical safety and behavior during mass riots, the work of a journalist in compliance with sanitary requirements in a pandemic. The comprehensive training, which will be conducted with the participation of the best specialists from Ukraine and the UK, has already received positive feedback and became the basis for a video course on the safety of journalists, and we will soon have the honor to present the training to the professional community.