Media situation in Donetsk region in 2017

Media situation in Donetsk region in 2017

Introduction

Donbas Media Forum took place in June in Sviatohirsk, Donetsk region. Topics of the Forum discussions reflected the situation in the media of the region, its problems and successes. In particular, the following topics were discussed: use of the “hate speech” in the work of journalists and ways to reduce its use; loyalty or independence of journalists regarding compliance with journalistic ethic; the ability of local media to use the resources of international donors and the EU; partnership of local authorities, communities and media; special status of journalism during the crisis. The discussions allowed to draw conclusions about the media situation in the region.

The Forum participants were interested in:

  • improving the quality of content on what life in the territories, uncontrolled by the Ukrainian government, looks like;
  • balancing between personal patriotic feelings of individual journalists and the principles of professional independent journalism;
  • practical understanding of decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and other legal authorities;
  • developing and improving of self-regulation regimes for traditional media;
  • - compliance with journalistic standards for editors and content producers;
  • - involving European institutions, maintaining and strengthening Ukraine's interaction with European institutions - the public sector (authorities of EU member states, the Council of Europe, OSCE) and non-governmental organizations.

The participants of Donbas Media Forum-2017 represented 14 regions of Ukraine, 92 editorial teams, 22 international and national organizations and 13 Ukrainian civil society institutions, including media non-governmental organizations.

About 70 people were from Donetsk and Luhansk regions (including 20 from Mariupol and 24 from Kramatorsk), about 70 were from Kyiv (internally displaced persons from uncontrolled territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, representatives of national and local mass media, public organizations and charitable foundations). Besides the local media representatives, there were journalists and editors from Kharkiv, Sumy, Zaporizhzhia, Dnipro, Chernivtsi, Odesa, Volyn, Cherkasy and Lviv regions among the participants.

In addition, the event was attended by representatives of Ukrainian (NGOs and charitable foundations working with IDP) and international organizations (OSCE, OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, United Nations Monitoring Mission on Human Rights, EU Delegation to Ukraine, the US Embassy in Ukraine, Embassy of Switzerland in Ukraine, Embassy of Germany in Ukraine, USAID and others).

The representatives of state authorities (Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting, the Ministry of Temporary Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons of Ukraine, Donetsk Regional State Administration, the Main Department of the State Service of Ukraine for Emergency Situations in the Donetsk region, General Administration of the National Police in Donetsk region, the Prosecutor's Office of Donetsk region, the Roads Service of Donetsk region).

“Hate speech” in printed media and ways to reduce its use

The round table “Hate speech in the printed media of Donbas on both sides of the frontline and ways to reduce its use” took place on the eve of the Forum opening. Experts and journalists discussed the relevant problem in the format of  an exchange of views between the participants and those present.

The region's printed editions are characterized by a neutral coverage of events and attempts not to use aggressive words in respect of other categories of the internally displaced or those who remain in an uncontrolled territory. Oleksii Matsuka, head of the “Donetsk Institute of Information” NGO presented the results of the study on the use of “hate speech” in publications of Donetsk region media, issued both in uncontrolled and controlled territories in March. Having analysed the materials of the editions Novorossiya, Donetskoye Vremya (“Donetsk time”), Donetskaya Respublika (“Donetsk republic”), Golos Respubliki (“Voice of the Republic”) and the newspapers Donbass, Priazovskiy Rabochiy (“Azov Worker”) and Donetskiye Novosti (“Donetsk News”), it was found that the signs of  “hate speech” are more often in the “DPR” publications, while in the Ukrainian press it was only 2%. In the controlled territory this is a rare case.

Tetiana Popova, the (“Information Security” NGO) representative, a former Deputy Minister of Information Policy, notes that “hate speech” is present in the materials of both sides, but in the Ukrainian media its share is lower, which is objectively connected with the discussions on news coverage, launched by the OSCE in the region. But the reason for “hate speech” use is that it serves as a specific way of protecting “yourself and your loved ones”. Describing the use of “hate speech”, the expert noted that she often acts against journalists who try to comply with the standards, especially those journalists who conduct journalistic anti-corruption investigations.

Using the “hate speech”, according to one of the Forum experts Clemens Schöll, from Germany, is due to the fact that ordinary people create their own “information filters”, they do not listen to neutral media, while focusing just on certain types of media: YouTube, Facebook, and others. As a result, any information appearing on this single resource becomes pin-pointed.

One of the aspects of overcoming the “hate speech” is that there are certain reasons for its use, and attempts to counteract the signs of “hate speech” sometimes only cause an increase in the use of specific vocabulary. One of the factors influencing its use is that journalists do not correct the information that becomes the basis for further aggression.  According to Anastasia Stanko, a host of the author’s program “Hromadske. East”, there is usually a transformation of a journalist’s thoughts when he first communicates with the military, and then – with ordinary people who have suffered during the conflict. These changes lead to the search for answers that cause a sharp reaction from one group or another, and this becomes the reason for the use of “hate speech”. The journalist notes that the specific features of counteracting “hate speech” cause its more active use: “As far as  overcoming the “hate speech” is concerned, my own experience is that when you begin to talk about how to overcome it , you just increase the hatred”.  An additional factor contributing to the “hate speech” is the lack of media apologies to the audience for misleading information, which makes dialogue impossible and unacceptable in today’s practice.

The factor that influences the use of “hate speech” in the media is that to some extent it is a lie and manipulation of facts both inside and outside the country, in order to further stirring up hatred. Oleksandr Horokhovskyi, editor of “FactsChecking” media, suggests a method of verification of facts (fact checking) as a counteraction to “hate speech”, which allows you to get rid of the emotional content and refute the lie. In his view, public discourse should be fact-checked in order to prevent manipulation of information and facts. Horokhovskyi gave some data that nearly 70% of fact checking resources of the world are concentrated on checking public statements.

According to Horokhovskyi, Ukraine is a favourable field for manipulative management of news. The Ukrainian population is extremely sensitive to information technologies, manipulative techniques and distorted facts, the reason to which, according to Horokhovskyi, is a brief “political memory” of  Ukrainians. The media, in their turn, have the owners pursuing a certain policy with using mind games. As a result of a study of 520 public statements, ranging those by the president to city mayors, Horokhovskyi’s organization found out that 52 per cent of these statements lack credibility. True facts were only 21 per cent. According to the expert, in order for journalists not to transmit false information under such circumstances, all the facts should be scrutinized and their authenticity checked. At the same time, according to Horokhovskyi, it is impossible to shift responsibility on the speaker – if the media takes responsibility for distributing information, then the speaker is no longer responsible.

During the round table, several aspects have been brought about to reduce the use of “hate speech” in the media. First, it is necessary to increase the general level of journalists journalistic ethic. Secondly, journalists should reduce the use of “hate speech” or put it aside at all and focus on promoting the dialogue. Thirdly, in order to address the problem of spreading populist statements by government officials or political players, it is necessary to apply systematic measures and adopt relevant laws that are in force, for example, in the Baltic countries, where politicians submit media plans of their advertising campaigns, and a party or a politician may be fined for excessive media exposure.

How to build a link between government, society and community?

In 2017, the number of public discussions on the role of the media has increased in Donbas. The number of educational events has increased in Donetsk region. The community as a whole and individual local communities have the opportunity to get information on how local governments can be influenced and how to control local authorities with the help of the media. Sustainable public control is still a challenge for Donbas, but the dialogue between the community and local authorities has begun, and the local media play role of communicators in this process.

The experts who expressed their thoughts on Donbas Media Forum see a lack of confidence as the main problem. Effective interaction between the authorities, society and the media is possible only on the principles of openness, transparency, honesty and responsibility for the results of their activity. According to Tetiana Ihnatchenko, the speaker of Donetsk regional military and civilian administration and Pavlo Zhebrivskyi’s press secretary, the lack of positive information about real success stories reduces the effectiveness of interaction. She believes that the media ignores social programs that “prove the efficiency of authorities”. Ihnatchenko noted that in this context, it is not about propaganda materials about the activities of the authorities.

It is also very important to establish a dialogue between the authorities and the residents of the temporarily uncontrolled territory. As a mechanism, according to the spokeswoman, a special issue of the municipal newspaper Visti Donbasu (“News of Donbas”) is used, which is distributed at entry/exit checkpoints and, according to her, contains patterns of using social services.

One of the key issues in the interaction of the non-governmental sector with the authorities is that the central government is well oriented in military matters, but is  weaker in the local context. They lack information or qualitative analysis for decision-making on development of at least controlled territories.

The communication process is also hampered by the ineffective system of representing interests of controlled territories at the central level. Oleksandr Kliuzhev, an analyst of the “Opora” public network, considers political context to be the cause of this phenomenon. Accordingly, the urgent problem is not the arrangement of the communication process itself, but what information will be reported, because there is excessive politicization of Donbas issues. Effective communication, according to the expert, “is hampered by double standards in assessing the public response to events in Donbas”: depending on which political party an owner of a public edition belongs, the coverage of the conflict in the media resource may have a certain political stripe. The process is complicated by the fact that the regional authorities divide its communication into national and local, which, according to Kliuzhev, is related to the desire to receive future electoral benefits.

An important condition for effective communication is also the security factor. This is not only military security, but also understandable rules of play, efficient power institutions – all that gives people an understanding in what social order the society functions. The great role of the media is to convey a persuasive message to target audience. Equally important for the media is that their task is to adhere to the long-term interests of audience, to form an appropriate informational culture. And this is where institutionalizing of independent Donbas media is very important.

On the way to the above-mentioned transformations, there is a problem of media corruption, which, on the one hand, are trying to get funding, and on the other - to maintain professional standards. Commenting on the situation, the expert Yevhen Hlibovytskyi, a Supervisory Board member of the “Public Broadcasting”, gradually there will be a problem with the formation of an active class of information users who are inclined to pay for high-quality and interesting information. If this stratum is not formed, the media will face the funding problem. The expert sees two ways out of the situation: either donor funding, or political sources. According to the expert, now we have entered a period of change that will last for several generations: “Trust is an important category. It determines the rate of transformation and also the level of solidarity with which society can undergo changes.”

For further efficient local mass media operation, awareness of the national contexts will be important, as the formation of the media market will take place from the centre on down, he believes. The expert emphasizes that there are currently no economic background for strong local players, rather the development of the media market in the region begins with branches, press centres, agencies of national printed editions.

Tetiana Yakubovych, journalist of “Radio Liberty” and “Donbas Realities” Radio believes that effective communication is possible, when each participant of the “power-media-society” triad acts both as a transmitter and a receiver. Therefore information should be communicated on behalf of different objects. The so-called “on-site broadcasting” are good for the establishment of effective work in the process of this communication. According to Yakubovych, the population of Donetsk region is sceptical about the coverage of the events taking place in the region. When people are asked why it is so, the answer is the following: “They cover events that happened long ago, everything is different now”. This reduces trust  in media and information provided by them. According to the expert, this is part of a wider problem where the regions of Ukraine do not have a meaningful idea about each other.

Iryna Bekeshkina, Director of Ilk Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation observes that the interpretation of facts by journalists complicates the situation. The fact-based journalism is close to reality, but there are also subjective considerations, because the journalist makes a report based on personally perceived information.

The problem of interpreting the facts is more complicated, because the desire for populism is commonly found in journalists. The expert considers the recipe for the communication problem solution as close cooperation between journalists, sociologists as well as analytical organizations and the authorities.

Reflecting on the problem of effective communication in the context of hostilities, Oleksii Haran, Kyiv-Mohyla Academy professor and the Research Director of Ilk Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation, observes, firstly, the need to have relevant terminology, especially with regards to the nature of the conflict, for this to be “clear how to cover it”. Haran states: firstly, the “losing position”, from which the Ukrainian army is covered, is unacceptable and secondly, there was little coverage of the developments that were made in the military system, which should be discussed in the “power-media-society” triad.

As a result, brief outline of the Panel participants’ ideas and suggestions are as follows. First, the key problem of communication is the low level of awareness of those who make decisions on Donetsk region at the central governmental level, especially with regard to the analysis of the future development of these territories, primarily of their controlled part. Violation of the information communication leads to the adoption of irrational decisions, which are then covered by central and local media. Secondly, because of the inefficient representation of the local community interests at the central level, the most important issues for the local population in both controlled and uncontrolled areas become irrelevant. Thirdly, the motif of decision-making is electoral preferences, so the issue of gaining political dividends is the primary source of interest in communication between the authorities, the media and the community.

Conflict-sensitive journalism in the media discourse of Donetsk region

Coverage of the conflict in local media is characterized by a tendency towards broad media pluralism and, as a rule, a high degree of uncertainty as to how to cover the conflict “properly”. This, in turn, affects awareness in the presentation of materials, duplication of the official position of the authorities, and the lack of analytics.

These trends indicate, at the very least, that there is an understanding that the development of the certain rules and approaches to cover the conflict in the East of Ukraine is necessary, and, at the same time, such universal solutions are absent. The Ministry of Information Policy of Ukraine often (at the level of strategies and documents), and the Ministry of Temporary Occupied Territories and the IDP rarely (mostly through the personal comments of the institution's management - Deputy Minister Heorhyi Tuka) try to influence the creation of certain information “narratives” which, according to employees, should be broadcast by the media, journalists and bloggers as the only “proper” ones.

At the same time, there is no single systemic influence of the central government on regional media (censorship), but rather self-censorship of journalists and editors.

Objectivity in covering events, especially regarding those in the area of hostilities, is a difficult task for journalists who, on the one hand, try to give an objective information, but on the other hand, execute the program declared by their founder, owner or one who wants to use these media for certain political dividends. Therefore, if there is some pressure on journalists, one can foresee that it may be caused by the dependence of journalists' groups on the media owners.

Journalists are often dependent, their activities are determined by editorial policy of the media. In the opinion of Serhii Tomilenko, the head of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, in a hybrid war, democratic institutions are often used to try to destabilize the informational space, and this requires an unusual reaction, as one of the mechanisms of this phenomenon aims to erode credibility in journalistic information.

As a result of the work of the OSCE office in Ukraine, the greatest concerns of the journalists during the crisis are their personal safety and threat of their rights violation. Journalists who have been attacked or whose rights were violated otherwise should have tools to protect themselves. So, the OSCE held four major international conferences with experts from the Balkans, who shared their experience in protecting journalists' rights in the context of military conflicts.

One of the important factors influencing the work of journalists in a conflict situation is some optimism about the possibilities of conflict resolution and the development of strategies for overcoming the acute problems of civilians and their further discussion. According to Jeta Xharra (Pristina, Kosovo), founder of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) and the host of “Life of Kosovo” TV program, Donbas media already demonstrates a high level of democracy: “This is the only conflict in the world when a forum is held in a hundred kilometres near the front line, discussing really deep questions, such as patriotism or independent journalism.” The expert adds that the war does not end when the weapons stop.

The basic standard of journalism in a conflict situation is the verification of the information provided and the ability to cover a particular situation in the general context, that is, from the standpoint of those who witnessed this situation. The need to cover conflicts prompts journalists to adapt to the conflict, especially to the reasons for its occurrence in a particular area. That is, a professional journalist must comply with the standards, but adapt them to the conflict context.

As Gabrielle Kaprielian Cunin (Switzerland), program manager for Foundation Hirondell, noticed, even in the context of a military conflict, the main task of the journalist remains to inform the public: with the help of providing information it is possible to expose the very basis of the conflict – why the violence occurs. It is during the crisis that news should be constructive, made in compliance with the professional standards.

Alex Anderson, former manager of International Crisis Group “Human Rights Watch” and “Amnesty International” in Eastern Europe, noted that if a journalist writes about a conflict, he should focus on representing different points of view of all participants, then it makes sense to think about the causes of the conflict, the parties concerned, the goals, what the participants of the conflict are afraid of.

Coverage of the conflict by local media takes place in the general information context, when many politicians in Ukraine use the conflict in order to gain electoral points and position themselves in the media. The situation is complicated by the fact that the authorities consider journalists as a certain tool to achieve their own goals or to delegitimize them. In a war, politicians and journalists are inclined to solve two diametrically opposite tasks: to overcome the confrontation within the country – or use it to fight for electoral preferences. The media situation in Donetsk region generally characterized with the attempt to move away from journalists’ blunt summing-ups or forecasting of the situation development. Exceptions to this rule are editorial teams located outside the region.

The international monitoring companies rely on expanding professional standards in the media conflicts coverage and ensuring correct feeding of accessible and constructive information to reduce the level of social tension.

Loyal or independent journalism

When analysing the issue of media loyalty or independence during the conflict, researchers are relying on self-regulation and self-censorship of journalists in the coverage of hostilities. During the Forum, it was repeatedly stated that there was a contradiction between the need to comply with the relevant standards of journalists and the need to be a patriot.

According to Forum participants, the peculiarity of media work in Donetsk region is that a professional journalist “covers” news regardless of his own subjective attitude. That’s because he lacks both the unified information strategy on the situation in Donetsk region at the state level and the consent among the media itself. The lack of general rules of journalist work in a war situation weakens the country's position in the so-called info-war in advance. According to Olena Holub, media expert, analyst of the “Institute of Mass Information”  NGO, for the journalists not to participate in propaganda and cover events objectively, they should first of all meet the pluralism of thoughts and balance in their coverage. The media expert said: “Those who think it is possible to fight propaganda using standards, are wrong, but there is no other way”.

In coverage of the current conflict, journalists use different terms and interpretations of the conflict, which is also a source of destabilization. Holub believes that if the country whose territory is occupied, calls the seizure of Ukrainian territories a “civil conflict”, it automatically becomes an “aggressor against its own population”. Thus, the need arises to provide objective information in the conditions where there is no single approach, what and how is to be called in the conditions of the Russian-Ukrainian confrontation.

At the same time, there are positive factors that contribute to the development of a professional media environment, and also the tendencies that journalists themselves point out: an increasing openness and loyalty of the authorities to journalists in different formats: it became possible to get in touch with the authorities on Facebook or have their online commentary.

In the opinion of Andrii Dikhtiarenko, journalist on “Radio Liberty”, “The Real Newspaper” editor, a journalist should be able to look at himself from different sides. One of the ways, according to Dikhtiarenko, is compliance with European standards, in order for the West to be satisfied with the processes in Ukraine both in the sphere of economy reforms and the fight against corruption  and in the sphere of freedom of speech and journalism objectivity.

Before answering Russian propaganda, we must realize that we can not do a mirror response. A competent and thorough information policy is needed, because in the occupied territories there are people who, in the opinion of Dikhtiarenko, should be fought for.

Andrii Shapovalov, director of the branch of  PJSC NSTU “Luhansk Regional Directorate”, commenting on the problem of loyalty and independence of the media, noted that when using the term “hate speech” and other “blurred” terms, the journalists “play into occupier’s hands”, because “hybrid war is to disorient both the victim and the environment.” For this purpose, in particular, journalists are used whose task is to blur problems using obscure terms that distract attention from the truth. Another problem is that many people who became journalists have nothing to do with the media profession. There are such publications that declare the principles of journalism, claiming their compliance with the standard, but in fact, according to Shapovalov, belong to specific oligarchs and perform certain tasks.

Thus, speaking of either loyal or dependent journalism, experts have come to the conclusion that the media of Donetsk region are aware of the attention of all members of the Ukrainian society to the topics covered in them, and this leads to some restraint in summing-up of the events. Information is provided promptly and fully, the interests of local residents are taken into account. But at the same time, many local media are corrupted and dependent on the position of the media resource owner and editorial policy. The journalists are also not inclined to conduct thorough investigations of local issues, with analysing the causes, development and consequences of the situation, but tend to briefly describe the events that take place. Another negative aspect is the lack of fact checking before submitting information.

Opportunities given to the local media with the resources of international donors and the EU

The panel “Opportunities given to the local media with the resources of international donors and the EU” discussed the opportunities, advantages and prospects of grants given by the EU Delegation and other international donor organizations to the Ukrainian media. While discussing this aspect of Donbas media, some projects that have already been implemented in the region within the framework of technical support grants have been covered, and also the reasons that encourage international donors to provide financial and organizational support to the Ukrainian media have been outlined.

The announcement was made about an attempt to expand the European experience of the functioning of independent and professional media in Donbas and in Ukraine. Given the fact that European taxpayers' finances are spent on grants funding, Ukrainian recipients are expected to use the development of professional media funding efficiently, in particular in the regions, in order to create a secure and stable information environment that would contribute to the de-escalation of the conflict.

David Stulik, Press attaché of the Delegation of the European Union to Ukraine, commenting on the support of the Forum by the Delegation, said that the media “bare a heavy responsibility to build bridges, look for ways to resolve this conflict.” Of course, it does not depend on journalists entirely, but the informational component of the conflict is very important. In this process, the role of high-quality media giving up the use of “hate speech” is crucial. That is why the EU helps at the institutional level, including the introduction of a new informational base, denationalization and the creation of the media market with the help of numerous media grants.

David Stulik also noted that for the EU, the situation in the East remains a priority. There are EU Informational Representatives in 16 regions of the country that help with the content. A striking example is the “Media Platform” for creating content in Russian and distributing it not only in the East of Ukraine but also in Georgia, Moldova and Belarus. Within the framework of the European Pravda (“European Truth”) project, local journalists have the opportunity to use a large grant from the EU through sub-grants aimed, first of all, at coverage of the reforms taking place in the region.

There are technical support manuals that enable the media to effectively use the resources offered to them by international donors. For example, the American program USAID created its soft copy that can be downloaded and used for free. Describing donor programs, Viktoriia Marchenko, manager of civil society development and independent media programs of the US Agency for International Development, noted that large donors also use EU approaches: projects are carried out by large organizations that provide local organizations with support in three possible ways: funding, organizational aspect (establishment) and further professional development. One of the successful examples of the program's work, according to the speaker, was the Voice of Local Media project, which is being launched a media consortium led by the Thomson Foundation.

The project is related to the fact that the creation of news items or publications about IDP may be prevented by their lack of communicativeness, noticed by the journalists themselves. Olena Sadovnik, the project coordinator, noted that the online platform was created with the help of the grant, and the internally displaced persons began to get in touch with the media after visiting it.

Oleh Pastukhov, an expert of the Mass Media Support Fund of the United States of America Embassy in Ukraine, spoke about other principles of work with the donors, about the system of small grants, up to 25 thousand dollars. His fund began funding media in 2001 in the format of regional competitions. Thanks to the Foundation's activities, 120 newspapers had the opportunity to create their own websites and operate online. For the Eastern media, the organization has held two major competitions for 3 years. It is interesting that along with small local mass media, grants from the Foundation were received by such powerful organizations as Media Detector, Ukrainian Pravda (“Ukrainian Truth”), Public Television and Public Radio.

German foundations have devoted about 45 million euros to support civil society in various countries, including Ukraine. For Germany and the EU, openness and the opportunity to cover events in the media remain priorities in the context of Ukrainian events, therefore most German programmes are related to media funding and are aimed at the formation of independent and pluralistic media, demonstrating high professional standards and journalistic ethic, Matias Conrad, First Secretary of the German Embassy in Ukraine, said. Equally important factors for obtaining a grant, according to the speaker, are the business aspect and ability to draw funds.

Besides issues related to opportunities to receive funding and to take part in the competition, the panel discussed quite painful topics for Ukrainian media, for example, the problem that arose due to the need to enable the municipal mass media to become independent by January 31, 2018. Direct grant funding for the creation of such media is not provided, therefore, they are invited to turn to broader content of the competitions, although the Media Development Fund had a program in which it supported the privatization of the media, but at that time the government had not yet made that decision. Trainings and workshops were held, yet the special competition is not announced, but there is an opportunity to get additional information about the privatization process, Oleh Pastukhov said. The local media can still seek help with the U-Media program and the Regional Press Development Institute.

An interesting aspect of providing grant support is also protection from “trolls” – organizations that, at the expense of the donors, can disseminate unconfirmed and false information. Speakers noted that their organizations use information security mechanisms, but, in Oleh Pastukhov’s opinion, the urgency of the problem of “grant-eaters” is minor compared to the time of Viktor Yanukovych.

Thus, the regional media are willingly using the resources provided by international partners, having a proper justification for their own ideas and the possibility of their manifestation. The number of programmes that donors provide is quite high, so it is worthwhile for local media to continue working in this direction.

Conclusions

The work of the media in Donetsk region is determined by considerable pluralism in the approaches to coverage of the conflict, while the level of use of “hate speech” remains relatively low (in the context of a study conducted by the regional media);

local media journalists show a high level of uncertainty about professional guidelines, trying on the one hand to comply with the journalistic ethic rules, but on the other hand to work within editorial policies encouraged by the owner of a particular edition;

the lack of institutionalized editorial practices, which cover topics related to the conflict, causes the information to be fed too laconic or descriptive, without serious analytics;

the low level of awareness of those who make decisions on Donetsk region at the central level leads to the adoption of unreasonable and inappropriate decisions as well as poor-quality materials on the conflict;

the activity of individual journalists, many of whom are the local residents and are well aware of the problem context on the whole and the interests of all parties involved in the conflict, and who often visit the conflict zone – is a significant personal factor in the work of the media.

Recommendations

One of the key issues facing the media, emerged during Donbas Media Forum, was the complexity of the communication process and inconsistency of approaches to local topics coverage. The subject, which is positively perceived in a controlled area (military, position maintenance, protection of the civilians), is not always perceived positively by the part of the population living in the “grey” zone or in the territory controlled by the “LDPR”, not far from the zone of hostilities.

During 2017 there were qualitative changes among information users, which can be divided into three groups. The first group of users needs unambiguous opinions and positions in public information; the second perceive materials adapted for concrete problems (for example, information on the list of documents required for receiving pensions by those who live in the temporarily occupied territory, etc.), the third group is interested in materials where information is critically fed, with a large number of facts and with a high degree of fact checking. As you can see, the interests of the first and third groups of information users contradict each other, while the interests of the third group form the basis for public dialogue.

To establish a dialogue and solve the problem of harmonizing the principles of presenting content about events in the Donetsk region, certain measures need to be taken.

For counteracting the “hate speech” and the formation of substantial content:

- increasing the media culture of journalists through participation in  professional skills improving activities;

- rejection of the creation of corrupted materials and the further rooting of standards of journalistic ethic in journalistic activities;

- implementation of the system of on-going monitoring of the use of “hate speech” in the local media the materials.

For the improvement of communication between the authorities, mass media and communities:

- searching new forms of communication between government officials, mass media and public representatives, such as on-site broadcasting, etc.;

- raising the soft skills of government officials and journalists through joint participation in specialized training programs;

- development of national and local strategies for the coverage of conflict in the context of the country's overall information policy; creation of internal “codes of ethics”;

For the possibilities for international organizations to improve the media situation in Donetsk region:

  • improvement of professional standards of representatives of local mass media through internships in relevant international organizations that promote the professional development of journalists;
  • use of donors’ support to reduce the pressure of media owners on editorial policies and the process of coverage of the events by local media.

Editor: Katerina Tryma

December of 2017