Ukraine: UNESCO working for truth and life-saving information

Rapid response by UNESCO’s Communication and Information Sector has seen emergency support being delivered to journalists working in Ukraine through local and international partners.
Ukrainian soldiers and members of press

The initiative aligns with the Decision by UNESCO’s Executive Board on 16 March which notes that “In a conflict situation, free and independent media are essential to ensure civilians’ access to life-saving information and to identify what is disinformation and rumour”.  

As announced in a UNESCO press release, the Organization has mobilised initial resources to supply personal protective equipment, starting with 125 bullet-proof vests and helmets as well as Hostile Environment and First Aid Training (HEFAT).  

The Organization is further helping with the relocation to safer areas of the country’s two journalists’ unions - the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine (NUJU) and the Independent Media Trade Union of Ukraine (IMTUU).  UNESCO’s support is also contributing to the operationalisation of a hotline, run by NUJU, which is providing practical support to journalists in Ukraine and those now in exile.  

Emergency transportable FM radio broadcast equipment is a further need that UNESCO is helping to address.   

These efforts respond to requests from Ukrainian journalist organizations, and are also shaped by UNESCO’s close monitoring of attacks on journalists and broadcast infrastructure.

Many Ukrainian and foreign journalists are reporting in highly dangerous conditions to get the story out to local and international publics. Their work is indispensable for both informing civilians about survival issues, and for documenting what is happening on the ground.  

The Communication and Information Sector is also monitoring closely what is happening to Internet infrastructure and connectivity in Ukraine, recognising that civilians also depend on digital communications for their fundamental right to freedom of expression and access to information.  

Close co-ordination within the UNESCO Communication and Information Sector led to partnerships being concluded with International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) to ensure rapid implementation.  

UNESCO will continue needs-based action for supporting the free flow of information concerning Ukraine, and will adapt its response to the changing situation, including in terms of the information needs of the local population, refugees and displaced people.  

Meanwhile, UNESCO will also expand its work to underline the critical importance of raising the Media and Information Literacy competencies of the public, as part of building the mental defences of peace and against all forms of propaganda and misinformation. 

Earlier in the Ukraine crisis, the Sector’s Assistant Director-General Tawfik Jelassi underlined the relevance of the IPDC handbook “Journalism, ‘Fake News’, and Disinformation”, available in over 20 languages, for journalists recognising and investigating mis- and disinformation. Empowered journalists, able to report safely, are a vital alternative to manipulated media content.

Funds for this first wave of support have come from UNESCO’s Multidonor Programme for Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists, the regular budget of the International Programme for the Development of Communication, and the Global Media Defence Fund.