In a time of crisis and war, a free and unbiased media is key to upholding democratic norms. Angelina Kariakina, head of news at public broadcaster UA:PBC, explains how it feels to work in an atmosphere of war.
UPDATE 27.02.2022: Despite the risk, the journalists at our partner UA:PBC continue to broadcast up-to-date news and information for the people of Ukraine round the clock and on all channels.
UA:PBC, Ukraine’s public broadcaster, launched its newly designed multimedia newsroom at the end of 2021 with the support of DW Akademie and BBC Media Action as part of the largest EU and German-funded media development project ever implemented in Ukraine. The Ukrainian audience can expect independent, reliable and multimedia news on all channels, away from state-controlled media.
DW Akademie has worked with UA:PBC in its reform process since it started in 2014. DW Akademie sees public broadcasters as essential to democratic societies and has supported the transformation of state broadcasters in Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Moldova and Serbia. DW Akademie and BBC Media Action are coordinating the newsroom’s development and providing training for UA:PBC staff. DW Akademie continues to support UA:PBC and regional journalists through the recently launched "MediaFit" project funded by the EU.
What is the biggest current challenge you face?
Probably working for eight years straight amid war conditions. Even though there is no fighting in the streets, it still influences the way we plan ahead and how we talk with one another. The longer we have war in our country, the longer Russia keeps on trying to fight and destabilize Ukraine, the more stressors we will have on democracy, there will be more polarization and we will all have more anxiety.
How does this growing tension affect you in your daily working routine?
We talk a lot every day about different scenarios with our families, with our friends and, of course, with our colleagues. Of course, it is a part of our daily editorial planning. But having different plans for various scenarios helps calm us and stops us from panicking. We know what our reporting will look like if Russia invades Ukraine. UA:PBC’s management decided on a plan for how our broadcaster will continue to work. We do not underestimate the threat of the escalation of war, but we are comfortable enough to remain calm and constructive in our work.
Can you manage to stay professional while this situation is affecting everyone on a personal level?
It’s a matter of great discussion among Ukrainian journalists as to whether it is possible to remain objective when our colleagues, family members or loved ones are fighting on the frontline. And my response is that, as a journalist, even though it is hard to be unbiased, you can be. Moreover, you should remain unbiased. And, in this case, it is not a choice between opinion or fact – it is a fact because the Russian aggression is real.
How do you stay positive?
While we are quite tired of this eight-year-long war, it also has mobilized Ukrainian society. The war serves to unite us and to make us want to fight for our integrity. Another fact is that we notice that the people trust us more than the mainstream media in times of crisis, and that is really rewarding. Even if they don’t read or listen to us daily, they still regard us as an independent news source and they trust us. It is like an ambulance: You don’t call it daily, but if something happens, you want the best possible care. So we are that ambulance for the public.