Solidarity with journalists in Ukraine
LONDON Freelance Branch repeats two appeals to members (and others):
- Please, please, do not go to Ukraine unsupported. Go only if you have training, equipment and a powerful organisation entirely on your side and watching your back.
- If you can afford to support Ukrainian journalists, please donate through the special Safety Fund set up by the European and the International Federations of Journalists (EFJ and IFJ).
Safety Fund: ’the most pressing need is safety equipment’
At the beginning of the war in Ukraine and the bombing of major cities the IFJ and the EFJ launched a special Safety Fund to support journalists in need in the country as well as journalists trying to flee Russia. Ernest Sagaga is the head of the IFJ Safety and Human Rights Department. He is "delighted by the solidarity from journalists, individuals and institutions alike from around the world". By 24 March the fund had received "over €223,000 and counting [and] other important direct support from UNESCO and others for the purchase of safety equipment and safety training."
The aid is being distributed, in close coordination between the IFJ, EFJ and their affiliates in Ukraine - the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine (NUJU) and the Independent Media Trade Union of Ukraine (IMTUU). It is, Ernest says, "focusing on the security needs of journalists, such as personal protection equipment (PPE) as well as safe communication... A fact-finding mission was organised to assess the safety situation for journalists, work out the priority in terms of assistance and how this can best be delivered.
The mission also discussed "Possible safe corridors for relocation within the country and evacuation outside as and when needed". To date, funds donated have "helped purchase PPE for journalists, support the relocation of the unions offices and provide safety advice to journalists". There are also plans to set up centres in safe areas of the country to coordinate the delivery of assistance near to journalists in need.
Sadly, many journalists had no such equipment when the invasion began - including several colleagues working for European media organisations. The IFJ "has had to give out flak jackets from our stock to colleagues who had none as they left for Ukraine." It now hopes "to supply another 110 sets of body armour in the next few days thanks to support from UNESCO."
Ernest is "aware of at least 35 Russian journalists who have fled to Turkey, and more in other neighbouring countries. The IFJ and EFJ are urging EU countries to facilitate Russian colleagues to obtain Schengen visas and are trying to provide support for those who need it in Istanbul and Tbilisi." The organisations are in discussions with other organisations about the best ways to provide such support.
In Greece the Journalists' Union of the Athens Daily Newspapers (JUADN "coordinated with the IFJ and SDP in Poland as well as Ukrainian affiliates and managed to travel to Ukraine to deliver aid directly to their colleagues. It was, Ernest says, "an inspiring show of solidarity... such initiatives should always be coordinated with Ukrainian affiliates, the IFJ and the EFJ," - as JUADN did. "That way, we can provide information on the exact situation, where to travel and stay as well as the exact needs of journalists in Ukraine."
Ernest stresses that "Covering armed conflict is a dangerous assignment which must be taken seriously. Journalists need to determine if this is something suitable to their personal situation. They also need to properly prepare by getting as much information as possible on the situation in the area of destination, how to get there , move and stay safely. They must take with them all they are likely to need, including PPE, valid visa, insurance cover, etc.. But the safety of journalists covering armed conflict is also the responsibility of employers who owe a duty of care to their staff. This includes providing them basic training in safety, PPE and insurance cover. We have already seen in this war some employers failing in that duty, putting journalists lives at risk."
Multiple journalists abducted and forced to ‘cooperate’
The EFJ on 29 March condemned "the deliberate targeting of journalists by the Russian military and denounced the torture and pressure exerted on journalists and their families in order to make them cooperate".
For example, journalist Victoria Roshchina was detained for nine days on her way to Mariupol. After her release on 21 March, pro-Russian media shared a video recorded under coercion, in which the journalist denied she had been held in captivity and that the officers had saved her life. Hromadske media outlet said this video was a condition of her release.
And on 29 March photojournalist Maks Levin had, according to the best information the EFJ has, been missing since 13 March.
- 3 April On 1 April Maks Levin was found dead on the outskirts of Kyiv.
Other journalists working in Ukraine for overseas outlets who we know to have been killed are Oksana Baulina, Brett Renaud, Yevhenii Sakun, Pierre Zakrzewski and Oleksandra Kuvshynova. Sadly, there are likely to have been more deaths.
‘We can be proud’ - General Secretaries
Anthony Bellanger, IFJ General Secretary, and Ricardo Gutierrez, EFJ General Secretary, issued this statement:
How can we meet the safety and professional needs of journalists covering a war when too many journalists go to the front without any preparation, when media outlets do not take seriously their duty of care, failing to provide the protection and equipment their staff on the ground need and when the media becomes the target of attacks by belligerents or is prevented from working for reasons of military strategy?
This is the challenge of covering most conflicts around the world and the one that is now being faced in Ukraine where local and foreign journalists are struggling to keep the world informed.
Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, we launched a special safety fund to help our Ukrainian affiliates and journalists covering the conflict to ensure their safety, but also to help Russian journalists who wish to leave their country. A mission report in early March gave us a list of priorities and that is the basis for our work today.
Our federations have been mobilized by an unprecedented outpouring of solidarity from around the world and help has been organized quickly with the effective support of our Ukrainian affiliates, NUJU and IMTUU, who continue to fight tirelessly to provide logistical, moral and financial support to journalists in Ukraine.
On behalf of the IFJ and EFJ we would like to thank you for your continued support. This war in Ukraine reminds us of the essential foundations of our organisations: solidarity, mutual aid, cohesion and the protection of the fundamental values of journalism.
We can be proud of that.