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Two years on: The importance of protecting the media and winning the informational frontline in Ukraine

Article by Sergiy Tomilenko

February 23, 2024

Two years on: The importance of protecting the media and winning the informational frontline in Ukraine

The Ukrainian army has been holding the Russian aggressor off for two years already. In its desire to destroy Ukraine at any cost, the Kremlin has spared neither its missiles nor its soldiers. Moreover, Putin has also spared no resources to fight on the parallel informational front, in order that the world receives distorted information about his crimes.


Once Russian soldiers have seized a new piece of our land, the propaganda machine immediately begins to inundate local residents with Russian-printed newspapers. At the same time, the enemy often resorts to falsifications, including using the names of Ukrainian local media, so that people believe more in what they read.


Today, it has become common practice that a journalist with the inscription ‘PRESS’ on his body armor is a target no less important than a tank or artillery unit for a Russian soldier. Ukrainian and international journalists document the war crimes of the Russians so that, thanks to the international court, Putin will be brought to justice.


Unfortunately, more than 80 journalists have already been killed in Ukraine, and the fate of several more is unknown. Of that number, 16 colleagues were killed while performing their professional duties; nine became civilian victims of the aggressor state, and others have been mobilised to the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU). Journalists who reveal the truth about the war in Ukraine to the whole world understand their extremely important mission.


While the Russians convince the world that their targets are only military facilities, Ukrainian and international journalists show the world destroyed cities with civilians. Currently, a critical situation has developed in the thousand-strong town of Avdiyivka, Donetsk Region. The city has almost been destroyed.


Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians who continue to live in the front-line and de-occupied territories remain in an information vacuum. They have neither electricity supply nor communication. Sometimes, Russian or Belarusian radio reaches their territory.


Therefore, the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine (NUJU) is doing everything possible to find funding for Ukrainian newspapers. Today, thanks to the cooperation of the Union and international partners, we have resumed the work of 30 newspapers in the front-line and de-occupied territories. Hundreds of thousands of people in the Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, and the Kharkiv Regions are now able to obtain information from Ukrainian sources.


Since the beginning of the war, the NUJU, together with UNESCO, has also launched six assistance centers for Ukrainian and international journalists, where they can receive protective equipment, advice, and/or use an equipped workplace in a co-working space. Due to the constant danger to the work of journalists in Kharkiv, we recently opened the Journalists’ Solidarity Center. There, hundreds of colleagues receive both protective equipment and a place where they can work readily and easily.


Two full years have passed since the full-scale invasion. The war continues. The world is increasingly talking about fatigue. Ukrainians are also tired. But evil does not exhaust… and so we must continue.


Support Ukraine. Support Ukrainians! Support journalists who fight injustice. Journalists are important!


Sergiy Tomilenko is the President of the National Union of journalists of Ukraine.


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not reflect the views of The Foreign Policy Centre.

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