Talking with the “Ukrainian News Agency” about the role of media in armed conflicts

On November 6th the delegations’ heads had a meeting with representatives of the Ukrainian News Agency (UNA), organized by Volodymyr Danyluk. It is a leading Ukraine based news agency with a two decade track record. The guests were welcomed by Denis Ivanesko, the director of the agency, Alexander Khorolsky, the deputy director and Dmitry Kuzmin, the chief editor.

Firstly, Denis Ivanesko presented his Agency and spoke about its achievements. He said that the UNA is one of the oldest agencies in Ukraine, founded in 1993. They are specialized on selling news on subscription. Every day the agency produces nearly 300 pieces of news, including announcements, interviews, reviews and expert opinions. One of the distinctive features of this agency is exporting of news abroad, for example ratings of Ukrainian enterprises for stock exchange markets in the USA.

The most important part of the conversation was the discussion of problems related with the coverage of armed conflicts and annexation. After analyzing the publishing of news concerning the so called United Forces Operation in Donbass and the how much people read news related with this topic, the spokesmen came to the conclusion, that over time people get used to war. It was also mentioned that Ukrainian and Russian media use often very different language to describe the conflict. The representatives of the UNA said that they have their own principles of сoverage of the situation in the east of Ukraine: they tried and try to be as objective as possible and to use words that reflect the situation as realistical as possible.

As is generally known, there are people who fight a war for the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic. Russian media tend to call them “militia”, while Ukrainian media call them “terrorists”, but the UNA identify them as something in between that in their publishing.
The UNA spokesmen said that in fact, they are not likely to be terrorists, because the concept of terrorism basically means that there is a group of people who seize certain objects (buildings etc). However, if we look through what is happening on the southeast of Ukraine, we will be able to see that those people there are more like a well-organized military force.

There is also a problem with naming of territories taking part in the conflict. By using the name “Separate areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions” the government does not emphasize that these formations claim statehood. That is why in materials of UNA the terms “Luhansk\Donetsk People’s Republic” is used. The situation with Crimea is much easier, as it is annexed. The difference between annexation and occupation is that in the first case the territory is included into the invader’s one.

One of the discussed questions was about the sources of information. The UNA does not have its own correspondents on the territory of the conflict because it is too hard to keep in touch with them and it is also too dangerous. So they use the information from the OSCE. They also use certain information from the Russian government, but they try not to transmit all of it, using only the most key facts. One of the most important thing is spreading the information about the illegally detained people, because only this gives them the chance to get released. The UNA spokesmen concluded that although people tend to get used to war, media need to keep reporting about the conflict to show that it continues.

At the end one of the presenters emphasized that there are two kinds of information. The first is the information, produced on the territory of Ukraine for the Ukrainians. And the second one is produced on the territory of the conflict for local people. The biggest problem is that people on both sides do not know what is happening on the opposite side. So the conclusion was following: we need to create a powerful, truthful and objective source of information for both of them.

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