Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has underlined once again the essential role of independent, ethical journalism in assisting citizens to make life-or-death decisions, informing the world, and holding the powerful to account.
As a powerful antidote to the disinformation and propaganda that characterise hybrid warfare, and as a pillar of democracy upon which other freedoms and rights depend, journalism in Ukraine is undergoing a terrible assault.
The targeting, torturing, and killing of journalists is abhorrent and must be stopped. Those responsible must be held accountable and brought to justice under national and international law. Vicious online attacks against news organisations and individual journalists must also cease. We condemn Russia’s attacks on press freedom and freedom of expression in Ukraine in the strongest possible terms.
The safety and security of all journalists to report freely are essential to ensure that the world understands the reality and facts of the ongoing war, including the humanitarian consequences.
We stand in solidarity with all journalists and independent media covering Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
The greater the threat to Ukrainian journalists’ lives, livelihoods, and ability to do their jobs, the greater will be our efforts to support them. Funding, protective gear, equipment, housing, training, office space in foreign cities, and psychosocial support – we will do everything we can to support our Ukrainian colleagues’ ability to continue reporting and serving the urgent needs of their audiences.
A window of opportunity for journalism and journalists everywhere
In countries with access to independent sources of news, an often sceptical public are recognising the bravery, commitment and professionalism of journalists and media outlets, both Ukrainian and international. Even governments with hostile dispositions to free, independent media are being forced to acknowledge the vital role journalism plays in ensuring that the world sees the invasion of Ukraine for what it is. Tech companies too are waking up to the fact that not all information is equal, and that there is a moral imperative to give due prominence to professional, independent, public interest journalism.
This nascent, new-found and rekindled recognition of journalism’s value among the public and policy makers is fragile. Ukrainian reporters and international journalists reporting from Ukraine have earned a window of opportunity. The greatest leaps of progress are often made in times of crisis. We, collectively, cannot afford to squander it.
For the sake of the immediate future and safety of our Ukrainian colleagues, and the long term viability of independent, public interest journalism everywhere, this is a moment that we all need to rise to.
For the benefit of media and journalists everywhere, we:
- Insist that states and armed groups must release all imprisoned and kidnapped journalists, including those detained or sentenced under the guise of prohibiting defamation or countering terrorism;
- Acknowledge that many conflicts and crises have at times not received the united, rapid and sustained response that our collective conscience demands;
- Affirm that field producers are journalists not “fixers” – their language skills, cultural and regional understanding and strong networks of contacts are crucial to international reporting and deserve the same rights, respect, support, social security and credit as all journalists covering conflicts.
- Commit to intensifying our efforts to support journalists in conflict zones, in exile, and facing hardship everywhere, including independent media/journalists from Belarus and Russia who have been forced to flee their countries;
- Russia’s crackdown on dissent; its attacks against press freedom; its intimidation of independent journalism – these actions are forcing journalists who remain committed to truth-telling and free speech into silence or exile. Russian people are being denied access to the truth.
To international media and journalists, we ask that you:
- Where legally permitted, provide surplus personal protective equipment to organisations able to transport this to Ukraine;
- Draw attention to the social insecurity of Ukrainian field producers and translators’ who help foreign media by providing them with proper pay, insurance and additional safety guarantees;
- Wherever possible make safety training available to Ukrainian journalists and to all journalists, including freelancers reporting from Ukraine, and “show the same concern for the welfare and safety of freelancers, local journalists and media workers as they do for their staff” including providing the same protective equipment to Ukrainian colleagues as to international reporters;
- Open your doors to displaced journalists and newsrooms. Give them somewhere to work from. Hire them if you can afford to;
- Listen to the calls of Ukrainian colleagues to use appropriate and accurate language when reporting on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, consistent with the ethical standards of independent journalism;
To private and public donors and funders of professional journalism, we ask that you:
- Urgently increase and provide flexible financial support to media that produce independent, ethical journalism, enabling them to hire or keep paying reporters, editors, and producers who are reporting on the Russian invasion of Ukraine;
- When you fund journalism, remember, journalism is a public good. It is an end in itself, a pillar of democracy upon which many other freedoms and rights depend. Do not undermine its independence by seeking to instrumentalise it as a tool of strategic communication or as a means to achieve other development objectives. Treat it with the respect it deserves and follow the well-established best practices and guidance on effective support to journalism;
- Simplify the process of applying for funding in emergencies: Application forms must be in local languages and should not require large amounts of internet data by requiring numerous files to be uploaded;
- Ensure that media and journalism are included in all aid coordination mechanisms;
- Provide support not just for newsrooms, but individual journalists and freelancers from Ukraine, as well as via mechanisms of fellowships or content production projects;
- Consider providing not only financial support, but also methodological and technical support. This can be the transfer of equipment for affected editors, training or publication of methodological materials.
To the EU, EU member states, members of the Media Freedom Coalition and all states that care about the right to freedom of expression and access to information to:
- Provide emergency visas and safe havens for Ukrainian journalists, as well as an independent journalists from Belarus and Russia, to re-establish their bases of operations and continue reporting;
- Condemn and push back against the trend of criminalising journalism, a hallmark of creeping authoritarianism in many parts of the world. Journalism is not a crime;
- Use all multilateral fora to defend the rights of journalists and advance their protection as civilians under international humanitarian law, particularly in the context of Russia’s war on Ukraine;
- Contribute to all efforts to investigate and bring to justice cases of journalists targeted in this war.
To technology, telecoms, internet intermediaries and advertisers, we ask you to:
- Work with the media and journalism community to identify, protect and uplift independent, ethical journalism, fact-checking, and media literacy efforts;
- Prevent automated takedowns of journalistic content documenting evidence of international crimes of aggression, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious human rights violations. These need to be available for journalists, fact-checkers, investigators and other stakeholders to effectively bring perpetrators to account and end impunity. Strengthen transparency and notice procedures, expedite appeal and remedy;
- Reverse commercial incentives – both through algorithms and content moderation policies – that discriminate against public-interest journalism’s ability to reach audiences and monetise high-quality content;
- Work with advertisers to stop the use of blacklist technology to block ads from appearing next to journalism and news media stories that mention conflicts like Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic and other critical health and social issues;
- Deliver internet accessibility to all: prioritise maintaining internet accessibility and connectivity, and promote the right to access information.
We continue to stand in solidarity with all journalists around the world who work in areas of conflict or where freedom of expression is limited, to deliver trusted information in the public interest.
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Check out Perugia Declaration for Ukraine:
Safety of journalists
This content is part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries. The project is co-funded by the European Commission.