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Media lessons from the war: journalists in Europe are still learning about Ukraine

Ukraine House in Denmark held a panel discussion “Media lessons from the war: Ukrainian and Danish perspectives" where Danish and Ukrainian journalists reflected on challenges and key lessons for the media after over a year of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The discussion was moderated by Nataliiya Popovych, chairperson of Ukraine House in Denmark, co-founder of Ukraine Crisis Media Center and Resilient Ukraine, and an expert in international communications.

Nataliia underlined that the Russian war in Ukraine started not in 2022 but in 2014. Back then it was difficult to explain to the international audience what was going on in Ukraine and convince Europeans how dangerous this situation is for the whole region.

From left to right: Charlotte Harder, Sevgil Musaieva

The editor-in-chief of one of the biggest Ukrainian online media Ukrainska Pravda Sevgil Hayretdın Qızı Musaieva agreed that russia spread propaganda narratives such as “Crimea was forever russian territory” for decades and spent billions of dollars on it.

“Putin destroyed all independent and even oligarchs’ media infrastructure in russia which made any alternative opinion impossible. Since 2014 Ukrainians were pictured only as fascists and nationalists. Russian propagandists are as guilty as Putin in this war's consequences. And I hope to see them all at the Hague bench,”

said Sevgil Musaieva.

A Ukrainian expert reminded that since February 2022 Ukraine has become the leading subject of the media headlines globally. At the same time the world didn’t expect that bravest level of Ukrainian resistance and resilience which could be explained by the lack of knowledge about Ukrainian history.

“People around the world just simply didn’t know a lot about Ukrainian fighting for independence for centuries. Modern revolutions in Ukraine started as a response for violence against journalists or students. And we were able to resist in this war because we already had a prominent civil society,” explained Sevgil Musaieva.

Talking about some of the lessons learned by Ukrainian journalists since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the editor-in-chief of Ukrainska Pravda formulated four of them: 1. Do not harm. 2. Be with your people. 3 Truth helps to win. 4. Remember about domestic topics including problems with reforms and corruption.

As the world watched the largest humanitarian catastrophe since the Second World War develop on European soil, it quickly became apparent that there were many knowledge gaps in the global perception of Ukraine.

Charlotte Harder, the head of communications and press at the Danish Union

of Journalists admitted that Ukraine was covered as part of post-soviet countries because with such a big and dominating country as russia nearby many media sent their correspondents to moscow to cover topics from the whole region.

However, the war required a quick education about Ukraine for many journalists and reporters all around the world including Denmark.

“There was an awareness among Danes that this war is not a completely new situation and in fact it was going on for a long time. But when it turned into a full scale war then everything has changed.

Before that only special reporters who covered wars could be in the front. Now you need to send more people, educate them and take care of their security, teach them how to keep cyber security, and avoid misinformation. We also realized that journalists and photographers could be a target and this was also a scary situation for media people,” said Charlotte Harder.

Many journalists and reporters in Europe are still learning, and some Danish media may need to implement information sessions about the Ukrainian history, language etc. Something like that has been done before to increase the level of knowledge about the climate change, for example.

Talking about the sources which Danish media use for their work, Charlotte Harder admitted that they work even with the russian side, keeping a critical attitude for any of that information.

“We need to have as many channels as possible opened but to be very critical and be brave enough to declare what it is. I understand it seems strange or completely wrong but I think it’s still important to report what was being said by russian politicians or russian side. We need to know that as well to understand how they are thinking,”

convinced Charlotte Harder.

The head of communications and press at the Danish Union of Journalists is confident that interest in Ukraine and its development will stay for years.

“If you are going to join the EU, there will be a closer connection between Denmark and Ukraine and this topic will be followed by many people with big interest,” said Charlotte Harder.

Nataliia Popovych recalled how different international media covered the war in Ukraine which russia started in 2014.

In her opinion this “blindness” is caused by a “colonized mind”, influence of the russian studies at universities and russian propaganda for decades. Fortunately, now international media stopped reducing the war to the words “a conflict” or “an attack”.

Nataliia Popovych also underlined the importance of personal stories in media and Danish journalists are very good at bringing them up in their interviews or articles.

Nataliia Popovych, chairperson of Ukraine House in Denmark

“Ukrainian author Oksana Zabuzhko claims: you can't mourn the loss of those you didn't know about". That’s why it’s so important to introduce Ukrainian culture and heritage. That’s what we are doing in Ukraine House in Denmark as well,” says Nataliia.


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