Reporting on conflicts: Radio Liberty

By Sona Sukiasyan

We are back! After one year we visited Radio Liberty again. We discussed with journalists and saw the studios.

One year ago we visited Radio Liberty to meet a journalist who works in Donbass. We learned about the difficulties and how journalism can work under conflict conditions.

This time we met Tetiana Jakubovich, the head of the program Donbass Realii. Not only the organizers attended the meeting but also members of the video groups and of the blog group. The videos groups wanted to take some videos from the journalists at work and from their office.

Tetiana Jakubovich opened the meeting by presenting Radio Liberty’s work. It is not only a radio channel but also an online platform and TV channel. It is one of the most influential media in Ukraine and 200 to 300 journalists work for it. The focus of reporting lies in conflict regions like Krym and Donbass.

Some participants asked about the radio’s history and how it gets financed. So, Tetiana Jakubovich gave some information about the history of RL. Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. The channel was founded by the USA in the 1953 while Cold War. Today it broadcasts in 26 languages in 22 countries about topics like politics, economy, culture and human rights. The countries where the channels exists suffer from media censorship or from by the government controlled media, as Tetiana Jakubovich said. That is why the aim is to provide information that is not mentioned by other media in these countries. There is also a channel of Radio Liberty in Georgia, so Georgian participants told the group about the channel in the context of Georgian politics.

Tetiana Jakubovich presented us special projects in their broadcaster, particularly she spoke about the TV program called Donbass in Reality. In the frame of this program they present the processes going on in Donbass, the live in Luhansk People’s Republic and Donetsk People’s Republic, as well as the role of Russia in the war in eastern Ukraine. She told the participants that two journalists from Radio Liberty were imprisoned in Donbass while covering news in that region. After the detention of these journalists some media outlets decided to cut the collaboration with the Radio Liberty.

A very interesting thing she told us was the importance of using some kind of ‘specific’ language and choosing the terms carefully while covering news related to conflicts. For example they do not use the term ‘terrorist’ when they report about the war in the east of Ukraine. The reason is because they do not want to use language polemically but to describe precisely.

As in the other countries Radio Liberty in Ukraine is until today financed by the congress of the USA. Some participants criticized that the channel cannot be independent if it is financially depended on the USA. Tetiana Jakubovich explained that they try independent though. There are rules for the editorial staff that demand objectiveness from the journalists.

In the discussion the topic of medial discrimination came up. A participant asked if people of the LGBTQ community get censored by Ukraine’s government. Tetiana Jakubovich said that this is not the case and she underlined that Radio Liberty refuses all types of discrimination regarding to sexual minority and any other topics.

After a very interesting and productive discussion the participants had the chance to walk around in the editorial office and also to see the studios. There are two radio studios and one TV studio. The specialists for TV journalism still talked with representatives of Radio Liberty about their technical equipment.

After the meeting the participants went to see nice places in Kyiv. Some of them went to the city center, others went to the People’s Friendship Arch or to the river side. And of course at the end of the day after meetings and working sessions the participants were hungry. So, the participants went to try seafood or Ukrainian traditional food.
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