Ukraine: "We will continue to stand with our affiliates until they can work with peace and justice"

Ahead of the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, IFJ Deputy General Secretary Jeremy Dear, who is co-ordinating the IFJ/EFJ’s emergency response to the situation in Ukraine, shares the successes and challenges of a year of unwavering work to support our local affiliates and Ukrainian journalists on the ground, and the urgent need to raise more funds in the midst of a war that drags on.

Jeremy Dear, IFJ Deputy General Secretary. Credits: IFJ.

1. Can you describe the response from IFJ-EFJ affiliates and the journalism community over the world when the IFJ-EFJ launched a special Safety Fund for Journalists in Ukraine a year ago? 

It was phenomenal. We often talk about international solidarity but this was a clear illustration of what it means in practice. It was not just the money raised - the most we have ever raised in any appeal - but the practical assistance that was delivered by our affiliates in Poland, Greece, Lithuania and other countries. Donations poured in, both from individuals and from affiliates and media and media support organisations. Other partners, including UNESCO, have been amazing in the support they have delivered.

2. Can you explain the work that the IFJ and EFJ have been doing together with its local affiliates, the National Union of Journalists in Ukraine (NUJU) and Independent Media Trade Union of Ukraine (IMTUU) and partner organisations such as UNESCO to help Ukrainian journalists and media workers since the Russian invasion of Ukraine?

Thanks to the funds raised, in particular through 3 major projects supported by UNESCO, we have been able to create a network of 6 Journalists Solidarity Centres managed by NUJU which deliver protective equipment, safety advice and training, first aid kits and training, provide access to psychological and legal support services, special support services for women journalists and independent Belarussian journalists, offer journalists from occupied regions or whose media has been destroyed work spaces so they can continue to document the impact of the war. We have also been able to deliver a series of humanitarian grants - both from our Safety Fund and via support from the World Food Programme and UNESCO.

3. Can you tell us in detail how the IFJ-EFJ Safety Fund for Journalists in Ukraine has been spent and why is it necessary to continue raising funds?

The latest figures show we have already spent hundreds of thousands of Euros supporting the Journalists Solidarity Centres including around 180.000 Euros supplying bullet proof vests and helmets, almost 50.000 Euros in emergency humanitarian grants, 21.000 supporting local media, 15.000 supplying technical equipment to help journalists to be able to carry on working, over 25.000 providing legal and psychological support, more than 11.000 on safety training as well as tens of thousands to staff and run the centres which provide such an important life line to Ukrainian and international journalists.

We try to meet the most urgent needs of our Ukrainian affiliates at each stage but what we can do is never enough compared to the huge need. By working with other partners we have been able to amplify the impact of what we do but as the war enters a new phase and there is an urgent need to help journalists and media whose offices have been shut or destroyed, those who have no income, those in occupied territories and those who are injured or need legal and psychological support. Every Euro raised is spent on meeting these vital needs.

4. Can you describe how the funds were mainly used one year ago with the outbreak of Russian violence and how they are used today in the war context to illustrate how the needs of journalists in Ukraine might have changed?

At each stage of the war we have agreed with our Ukrainian affiliates the priorities which have changed as the war moves into different phases. Immediately following the invasion our work focused on supplying protective press vests and helmets and first aid kits. We helped develop strategies for securing the evacuation of journalists  from occupied territories and providing urgent safety advice and training. We also helped our two affiliates to relocate from Kyiv to ensure in the event of major bombing or occupation they could continue to provide support to their members and set up a hotline for those in need.

In the second phase we set about establishing Journalists Solidarity Centres in 3 regions to help take support closer to those who needed it. We increased the amount of training on offer and began to provide spaces where journalists at risk or in need of support could come for help - be it legal or psychological or support from the union around accreditation issues or other professional needs.

We have now expanded the network to six solidarity centres - including the latest one in the frontline city Zaporizhzhia - which provide a whole range of services from 24-hour access to psychological support to the possibility of accessing protective equipment and computers, professional cameras, training in a new range of issues, including awareness and protocols around landmines and nuclear threats.

We have also been able to increase the number of grants given to journalists who have had to leave occupied territories, who have no work or who have urgent needs. We hope to be able to link up with the WFP and UNESCO to deliver more grants in the future.

5. There have been numerous stories about Russian journalists fleeing Russia. Have you been able to help them? 

Yes. Thanks to the Safety Fund we have been able to provide support to some of those now in exile in a number of countries. Our affiliates in neighbouring or host countries have also been amazing in providing support to those forced to flee. Importantly we have also been able to deliver International Press cards to many of them which makes it easier for them to work and prove their status as journalists.

6. The IFJ released a Media Safety Advisory for journalists covering armed conflict in Ukraine as a response to the outbreak of violence and to the number of foreign journalists travelling to the country unprepared and unequipped to report on the war. What must a journalist willing to cover the conflict do/know before travelling to Ukraine? 

We were shocked at the outset of the war by the numbers of people travelling unprepared - without proper protective equipment, without insurance, with no training. These were not just young freelancers hoping to make a name for themselves but often people working for major media organisations.

As a minimum journalists should have been trained, be properly insured, have the right protective and communications equipment and have carried out proper risk assessments. The Media Safety Advisory sets out other key issues about ensuring digital security, filing stories, protecting contacts and much more. Employers have a duty of care for those they employ - whether as staff or freelancers - and it is vital they respect that duty. 

7. What are the IFJ’s priorities for Ukraine right now?

Our latest project will look at helping to re-establish media in areas which have been liberated so journalists can again begin to report on the impact of the war, can help to document the war crimes happening and provide citizens with key information.

Above all we will keep listening to the needs of our Ukrainian affiliates and continue, deliver all the solidarity we can and stand with them until they can work with peace and justice.

To support IFJ/EFJ work in Ukraine, donate to Safety Fund

For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 146 countries

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