“Every day, journalists and media workers are risking their lives in Ukraine to provide life-saving information to local populations and inform the world of the reality of this war. We are determined to support and protect them in every way possible. UNESCO has been resolutely committed to this since the beginning of the crisis, in close collaboration with its international partners and local professionals", said Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO.
From the first day of the war, UNESCO has consistently called for the respect of international law to protect journalists, technicians, fixers and other media professionals as civilians in a conflict zone, and to refrain from any attack on communication infrastructure. The Organizsation has also monitored attacks on journalists and damage to press infrastructure, as well as systematically condemning the killing of at least four journalists and the wounding of several others.
The UN agency is in constant contact with local journalists' associations, international NGOs and online platforms to identify needs, provide technical advice and work on urgent interventions. To respond to these needs, Audrey Azoulay announced Wednesday several additional emergency measures to be rolled out this week by UNESCO.
1. Providing protective equipment
Thousands of journalists are reporting from the ground in Ukraine, many without the necessary protective equipment or training. This especially includes local Ukrainian journalists who previously reported on local issues and have been thrust into the role of war correspondents, unprepared for the risks they now face.
UNESCO is providing them with an initial batch of 125 sets of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), consisting of bullet-proof press vests and helmets. They will be distributed from next week by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), via its Press Freedom Centre in L’viv, and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).
"As attacks on journalists during the war have already shown, having high quality Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) can save lives. That is why UNESCO is working with its partners to minimise the number of journalists operating without this critical equipment", explained Audrey Azoulay.
Tuesday, the Director-General of UNESCO called on UNESCO Member States to support this effort and provide the financial resources to amplify it.
2. Training journalists to work safely in war zones
UNESCO is translating into Ukrainian and distributing in multiple languages its training manual for journalists on hostile environments, developed together with RSF.
In addition to this manual, UNESCO is organizing online courses in Hostile Environment and First Aid Training (HEFAT) as well as the psychological trauma associated with operating in a conflict zone, in partnership with IFJ and RSF. UNESCO will also support efforts to establish in-person training, particularly at the Press Freedom centre in L’viv.
Furthermore, UNESCO is providing funding so that trained professionals can be available 24 hours a day through a dedicated hotline set up by National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, which journalists can call if they need assistance evacuating from a danger zone.
3. Helping displaced Ukrainian journalist unions
UNESCO is working with the International Federation of Journalists to relocate the offices of Ukraine’s two journalist unions to Poland, close to the border with Ukraine.
This relocation will ensure that the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine (NUJU), with more than 4000 members, and the Independent Media Trade Union of Ukraine (IMTUU), with around 2000, can continue to provide practical support to all journalists in Ukraine and those who have fled to neighbouring countries.