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How Ukraine is fighting the information war with Russia

How Ukraine is fighting the information war with Russia
Article by: Lozova O., FV trainee analyst
This report originally appeared on the Information and Analysis Center of the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv

The current situation in Ukraine more than ever requires the unity and the formation of a strong information policy. Unfortunately, pluralism in its current form has a negative impact on this process and distorts the information field of Ukraine. Viktor Nabrusko thinks that the information field is one of the main factors that help us to build the state and create civil society. It, consequently, forms the information space, whose boundaries are identified with the boundaries of the country.

Volodymyr Manzhosov claims that the situation in contemporary information field of the country is complicated: “If we do not change the priorities of national production of television, radio, newspaper or magazine media now, then nothing will ever change. The national product must be of high quality and financially supported by the state. Only then can we expect a promising future”. According to him, an alien state in our Ukrainian home feels itself a mistress and teaches us and tells how we should live, using the media.

According to various estimates, only ten percent of frequency resources in Ukraine belong to the state. This problem has become a crucial factor in the creation of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics and is the reason why a significant part of the local population supported the annexation of Crimea. This allows us to claim thatinformation field is connected to the state’s national security.

The state is obliged to ensure the use of information field in its own interests and in interests of its citizens. If it does not do it, the information space will be used against it.

Our information space is now distorted because of the prejudiced information, the impact of other countries and international organizations, which promote their own interests, on Ukraine. Our country has to overcome these problems in order to enhance the effect of its international information policy.

Events that have been taking place in Ukraine over the past two years are causing the resonance in the world. Accordingly, completely different opinions and views on the situation in the country are formed. Moreover, finding ourselves in the face of the hybrid war with Russia, we must learn how to resist it. This applies not only to hostilities, but also to information propaganda via the Internet, media and activists. Our eastern neighbor actively disseminates its information field effect inside Russia, Ukraine itself and the entire world community.

A question of foreign broadcasting system in Ukraine is the urgent issue for the time being. Foreign broadcasting system is a specific form of activity, aimed primarily at citizens of other countries in order to implement certain information-psychological influence on them and consists in preparation and broadcasting various information messages, news, programs etc. Obviously, those existing instruments of such foreign broadcasting in the new international environment are not sufficient. Ukrainian State Television and Radio broadcasting companies can not quite resist the power of information flows aimed against Ukraine.

For instance, a state information resource that has to spread information about our country abroad is the Ukrainian National Information Agency “Ukrinform”, which was established in November 1996. The agency’s news pieces are published in Ukrainian, Russian, English, German and Spanish.  The journalists of the agency work in every region of Ukraine and in the 11 countries: the USA, Germany, France, Russia, China, Belgium, Moldova, United Arab Emirates, Poland, Bulgaria and Hungary. “In general, “Ukrinform” has all the preconditions to be competitive on the global information market,” – people say in National Institute for Strategic Studies at the President of Ukraine. – “However, in fact, the agency does not really work with the foreign policy informing issues”. That is why the state must pay more attention to Ukraine’s foreign broadcasting system and reform it in order to prevent foreign countries from getting distorted and fragmented idea about Ukraine.

What are the actions of the country?

First of all, the issue of frequency resources of Ukraine should be resolved. That is, to legally regulate it along with the subsoil, air, water. Also, a mechanism preventing the monopolization of media markets has to be introduced.

Secondly, Ukraine should extend its information field on the global media market by occupying the satellite frequencies and cooperating with international media.

Thirdly, information strategy is to be created and international links should be developed. What is more, the level of corruption should be reduced in order to get the people’s trust and foreign partners’ support.

What has been done by Ukraine in the context of foreign international policy?

With the support of the Council of Europe and Canada, First National Channel began operating in English also. This enables the foreign audience to watch it online.

To better inform the Ukrainian and international communities about the state’s initiatives of the last year, an Internet portal “Ukraine Today” was created in Ukrainian and English versions. Its TV version is available to the citizens of the USA and some European countries (Germany, Italy, Spain, Luxembourg, Bulgaria, Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, and Andorra). Portal’s mission is to promote the idea of peace and to become a major international source of information for the West about news and events taking place in the Eastern Europe. The project operates on the principles of freedom of speech and information and aims at consolidating the efforts of influential countries. “UA Today” operates on the principles of honesty and fairness, according to the journalist’s code of ethics and European standards of journalism (the balance of thoughts, reliability and efficiency, separating fact from comment, accuracy, and completeness of presentation). Professors from France, Canada, USA and the UK collaborate with the project. They contribute to the popularization of the portal in their countries.

This year, on July 13, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine registered the bill №2334a “On the Foreign Broadcast System of Ukraine”, according to which the Ministry of Information is going to launch the TV channel “Ukraine Tomorrow”. Its editorial policy “is determined by the need to inform the foreign audience, including foreign Ukrainians outside of Ukraine, about the official position of the State; and in case of introduction the state of emergency, martial law or under conditions of the special period, particularly in case of conducting antiterrorist operations on the territory of Ukraine – informing the audience that resides at the temporarily occupied territories,” – says the bill. Programs are produced in Ukrainian and three other languages, depending on the urgency and feasibility of the use of a language to achieve the goal of the channel. The project is similar to the Russian «Russia Today». Yuriy Stets planned the opening of the “Ukraine Tomorrow” during March 2015. Still, in July he said that the Ukrainian foreign broadcasting media platform was set to launch on the Independence Day on August 24. In August he said that the owner of the company “Inter” Dmytro Firtash patented the brand of Ukraine Tomorrow. Thus, the Ministry will now have to modify the name of the bill №2334a “On the Foreign Broadcast System of Ukraine”, which was registered in the Verkhovna Rada on July 13, the UNIAN news agency writes.

The achievement of Ukraine in the information war with Russia is also a boycott of Russian TV production.

Let us remind that since last year almost all national TV and radio stations have stopped transmitting Russian channels and radio stations, respectively the impact of eastern neighbor on the Ukrainian audience decreases. Earlier this year, the Ministry of Information Policy, similar to Russia, has launched a project “The information army of Ukraine”, which spread national information policy in social networks. They are using fake accounts (so-called bots). Their mission is to fight back the Kremlin lies and to inform users of social networks about the real situation in Ukraine [ed: The Ministry of Information is not actually using bots; they simply send out newsletters with links to important articles and ask to share them in social media].

Currently, the international information policy of Ukraine is gradually moving forward. The desire of world experts to cooperate with the state media platforms shows that we are on the right track. The main thing now is that the real changes are to take place in the state, so we won’t lose the trust of the world we’ve already acquired.

Civil Society Initiatives

Besides the state, civil society also takes initiatives in the process of International Information Policy execution. The most important of them – the Revolution of Dignity, which was the turning point in the direct determination of foreign policy. V. Filipchuk notes that the attitude of the EU to Ukraine has changed after the Euromaidan.”It had several waves of rise and fall. For example, after the Orange Revolution, there was a year of admiration with Ukraine, when we could have even applies for EU membership and conduct serious negotiations concerning the help to Ukraine, but this window of opportunity had been closed. It was substituted with disappointment, and then – with frank irritation with Ukraine. But the Revolution of Dignity has returned everything in a different direction, when the world saw people dying with the European flag in their hands for the European idea – the Europeans were shocked. Therefore, the attitude has positively changed, but it will not last long. Six months of talks and “doing nothing” and the attitude of Europe to Ukraine will again change to negative”, – the politician said. The data distributed by the Razumkov Center shows that for the last year the number of supporters of Ukraine in the EU increased by 7% in comparison to previous years. The attitude of foreign and domestic community to the situation in our country is gradually changing for the better. Important role in this process belongs to activists.

For the last year due to their initiative, a number of centers that broadcast information about events in Ukraine and our position in the hybrid war abroad have been established.

That is, for example, Ukrainian Crisis Media Center. It has been created in March of 2014 by the efforts of leading Ukrainian experts in international relations, communication and public relations.

The purpose of the Center is to provide the international community with objective information about the events in Ukraine, challenges and threats to national security, particularly in the military, political, economic, energy and humanitarian spheres. It provides information and support to representatives of all the media covering the events in Ukraine.

It serves as a platform for public appearances with efficient statements and analysis of the situation in the country: representatives of the Ukrainian authorities, experts, representatives of international organizations and diplomatic corps. In other words, the Center promotes dialogue between political elites and solving of topical problems. For the time of its existence, over two thousand events have been held and more than four thousand speakers have been invited. Pages of the organization in social networks have become very popular in Ukraine and abroad.

Free Voice Information Analysis Center is an initiative of students and lecturers of the Faculty of International Affairs of Lviv National Ivan Franco University. Its purpose is to broadcast objective information about events in Ukraine and around the world.

The organization has been functioning since October of 2014. It prepares weekly analysis (“Weekly Digest” of the situation in the East of Ukraine, the economy and reforms in Ukraine, international support of Ukraine), based on an analysis of different viewpoints and also contains links to the sources. Their translation is performed in 8 languages ​​and is distributed to residents in more than 30 countries of the world.

IAC also prepares results of a month in Europe, in international relations outside Europe, a weekly analysis of Ukrainian and foreign official statements, analytical articles, breaking analysis, collective and individual interviews, reviews of Ukrainian and foreign media. translations of foreign articles (for the time of the Center existence almost 235+ materials published, including 48 weekly digests).

Vox Ukraine Portal, which was created to discuss developments in Ukraine and is aimed at promoting evidence-based political analysis and commentary of leading scholars, politicians and businessmen. The target audience is the people working in government, international organizations, engaged in scientific activities and business, as well as journalists, who specialize in economic, political and business topics. The portal operates in Ukrainian, English and Russian and covers topics on Crimea, war in Donbas, monetary and fiscal policy of Ukraine and the world`s attitude to the current events in our country. Projects that provide analysis from leading lawyers (Vox Ukraine Law) also functions. The “Index of reforms monitoring” tracks the changes that take place in Ukraine, and assesses their importance.”Index” provides the public with information on the speed and quality of reforms in the country. Also at the basis of the center operates the initiative RadaReportChallenge, which urges deputies and members of the Cabinet of Ministers to report their goals, achievements and challenges in order to establish communication between the authorities and the people.

Borysfen IntelAnalytical Center, which deals with the geopolitical research, analysis, forecasts and assessment of the situation in the world in general, in Europe and around Ukraine. The center has been created at the initiative of the former militaries of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and Special Services of Ukraine.

Based on a thorough analysis and evaluation of issues of the state and development of political, military, economic and martial situation in Ukraine, the problems of the national (including information) Ukraine’s Security, Center provides information and analysis, focused on the use of public and non-governmental organizations in Ukraine and abroad that deal with geopolitics and national security.

An International Initiative to Support Ukraine aims at spreading the truth about Ukraine in the world and fight against Russian propaganda.

Engages in the organization and conduct of lectures of known foreign specialists and experts for Ukrainian government officials and relevant ministries and agencies, and within the initiative group of the Budapest Memorandum – involves investments in housing for victims of war (settlers, soldiers and their families) from the countries-guarantors of territorial integrity of Ukraine.

Euromaidan Press is an online publication, founded in 2014. It focuses on the events that occur and have occurred in Ukraine. Over the years of its existence, the initiative has been supported by international institutions such as the BBC, CNN, Forbes, New Republic.

“Stopteror” appeared on the initiative of activists of Donbas and Ministry of Internal Affairs, who combined their efforts to support the territorial integrity of Ukraine. The initiative was developed as an open internet platform for the visualization of the events unfolding in the East. The information comes from patriotic citizens, provides for more efficient operation of military units, for assistance in identifying military deployment sites of terrorists, their firing positions, fortifications, presence and amount of equipment and personnel of terrorist groups, the Russian Federation military personnel stay.

Also the centers that show the results of the external information policy of Ukrainians been created.

The OKO Razom for Ukraine project collects materials that contain mentioning of Ukraine, sorts them according to social importance (number of likes and shares in social networks), makes brief annotations and gives for processing to editors that shape media reviews of Ukraine`s image for a particular day.

These reports are made every day. They help to objectively evaluate how Ukraine and events in Ukraine are seen abroad. Reports are designed for media agencies, media, analysts and all those interested in the image of Ukraine in the world media.

Voices of Ukraine is a resource designed to distribute information about events in Ukraine. It appeared during Euromaidan. Voices of Ukraine volunteers are Ukrainians from different countries who translate media coverage of Ukraine. The project is open for cooperation and attracts those wishing to join.

World About Us is a portal that publishes materials of leading world publishers about Ukraine.The project emerged in the wake of mass dissatisfaction with the regime of Yanukovych and is intended to give every Ukrainian an opportunity to learn the view of international media and independent experts about certain events in Ukraine.

I Promote Ukraine is a voluntary initiative that tells the world about Ukraine in an unusual way. Volunteers carry out actions, events and flashmobes in Ukraine and abroad, thus providing information about the events in our country.

Conduct of information campaign “Ukraine today” on Ukraine quickly and in English.The initiative includes conducting daily digest information in different languages ​​about the events in Ukraine. Materials are published on the project`s website and Facebook page “Ї Journal” and “Ukrainska Pravda”. The digest communication includes 5000 partner of the magazine: foreign analytical centers, diplomatic missions, news agencies, funds, influential politicians and public figures, parliamentarians of important for Ukraine countries, and so on.

“Stopfake” is an initiative of students and graduates of Mohyla School of Journalism, established in March 2014. The organization searches for false news about Ukraine and publishes refutations. The cooperation involves everyone, who wants to join.”Stopfake” is popular in social networks.

Some initiatives unite Ukrainians abroad, such as “Canadian diaspora” or “Ukrainians in Poland”. There patriots hold peace marches, actions and try to cooperate with authorities. For example, Ukrainian diaspora in Poland created in Warsaw Museum of Maidan, where visitors can learn about the events that led to the Revolution of Dignity, events that occurred during Euromaidan and that, what happened to HeavensHundred.

It is worth mentioning here some individual pro-Ukrainian activists.

For example, adviser of European Parliament Deputy K. Kruk, who, since the beginning of Euromaidan, conducted a Tweeter page in English to inform Europeans about the situation in Ukraine. For this time, she, with a frequency of 25-30 tweets per day, managed to reach 22 thousands of regular followers and record posts review about Ukraine reached 3.2 million views. Notable examples of global Ukrainians that help Ukraine in different parts of the world.

From the beginning of Euromaidan Ukrainian Diaspora organized Maidans in the cities of Europe and America. Since the system of broadcasting Ukraine in foreign countries at that time was not at the best level, we can say that Ukrainian community in the world has been and remains the main source of information for foreigners.

Director of the Institute of Media Rights Taras Shevchenko believes that civil society and non-governmental organizations are the driving force in our country.”They are actually able to achieve some changes. For many issues their initiatives were much more useful, mobile and efficient than governmental ones”, – said the expert. Unfortunately, private centers and NGOs are hardly supported by the Ukrainian authorities. These projects are supported by grants, own funds and ideological activists. Some are funded by partners from abroad. In fact, the community and government initiatives go along, although they have almost identical methods of achieving the goal. Meanwhile, the recent initiatives at all levels enable to predict that international information policy will become stronger and more effective.

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