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Read this: Reporting from Ukraine - six months on

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Reporting from Ukraine - six months on…

BBC sounds music Radio podcasts from BBC Radio 4 Today Ukrainian should be celebrating 31 years of independence from Soviet rule instead.

There's a Grimmer anniversary.

It's exactly 6 months since the start of this War I want to look back at the journalism over those months.

What was the report taught us about the war and what is the water about the media and joined by journalists have been in Ukraine and some of them now somewhat also in Russia Deborah Haynes Sky News defence and security editor Robertson is international diplomatic editor at CNN or Cassidy is a freelance journalist and so too is all good took our Luke and Francis guys here from BBC monitoring welcome, and thank you so much for coming on the media show if we just start with you.

Where are you? And what is the atmosphere like in Ukraine today? You've been tweeting about our Prime Minister Boris Johnson visit to Keith I know that.

Hi everyone, and thank you for having me on this show current in western Ukraine in the 20th and I apologise for the background because you know I'm speaking to you from a basement because we've already for irregular today in a sense.

I'm working from home.

I just decided to stay in the basement for the show so that you know I don't get interrupted by another air raid alert ITV as well.

Thank you for explaining that if it's a grey background, but at least you're safe.

Can you play now and deal with the reports of several targets where I am now? It'll simple original central Ukraine and someone was wearing the same time again.

Surprise visit in I think most reactive repository because they see it as a sign of solidarity from the UK and from Boris Johnson on this as I said your freelance.

What would you say in general about how the Western media has reported this more so many reporters from all over the world in Ukraine in the first weeks and months and then overtime.

I think this interest is fading away now.

Maybe some are returning because of independence day because of furthest 6-months Marks and Spencer's kill invasion started and I think it's something that kind of worried people in Ukraine because they're really afraid of the world tired of this war and from Ukraine disappearing from the TV screens and from the newspaper and you specifically.

What have editors wanted from you? What sort of stories? Have you been doing interviews in writing something for online media Time Magazine and also for some other online media in the US with a UK magazine a radio Monaco and Wild you know what I said in the initial and monster that was at this focus on breaking news.

What is happening now.

I think this has been shifting in recent weeks and months to describe the trends and their analysis but it's happening and also me personally.

I think I can afford shaped what I wanted from breaking news on reporting water on human rights violations and Russia war crimes ok, I'm going to bring up Deborah Haynes hear you were in Ukraine as the wolf.

The Sky News your back there now just tell us where you are and how you approach your mission like this one so I'm in the South of literally.

Just arrived actually flew into mulled over and then drove Across the Border and yes, it's very cereal being here 6 months on because we were in coming in to Ukraine from the air from December when the unfortunately that's Russian forces that were messing around the border were actually going to launch them all out offensive and while it was actually really hard to conceive that our like that.

We're going to be launched on European soil the reality when we saw the buildup of Russian forces when we heard what the Western officials the saying at the time.

Unfortunately inevitable but even though you had that feeling that it was coming and remember back in in the beginning of January and even into early February the Ukrainian officials up to the presidential are ready to playing down be in public the thought that they could be really weird at lunch a full-scale invasion of their country country.

That's been at war for 8 years now.

Obviously we could see the tanks building up and people were documenting exactly what was happening on social media exactly when it actually started was the 23rd a beautiful European city with people out there having coffee and coffee shops in obviously very aware of what could become.

Those final days and but then that overnight when the early hours of the morning when the missile strikes started at and the first time you've got my sound of the air raid siren.

It was really it's seismic it and the world will never be the same as a real moment when suddenly warnings for so long about the Threat posed by President Putin has and his intentions and hat and the westfalia to respond back in 2014 when Russia and explore and backlash invasion in the east of the country suddenly it all came home to roost with this full-scale invasion with the west warnings failing to deter yes, it's been 6 months on.

Are you you're back there now.

You broadly telling the same story as you were 6 months ago apart from it's six months later, or is it a different story now?

How much is planned in advance in terms of what you're doing there now, but it's a completely different story now.

I'm obviously it's a war and it's a country defending itself and trying to push out these invading forces and the human suffering that comes with that but in terms of the actual complex itself in the beginning the expectation absolutely words for a lightning strike by Russian forces decapitating the the keys government and Ukraine under Russia's cold once again with a pro pro Russian puppet regime and of course you didn't let that happen and so now it's this different type of War it's a war of attrition and one where Russia is counting on the westfalia to stay the course which has been demonstrated over recent Wars in the past.

Happening again, so that it can through attrition 60s it in some kind of games here on the ground but clearly there's no guarantee.

That's going to happen and absolutely want that to happen and ok.


Let me just bring it to gu2 were there at the Beginning unlike Deborah unlike nip you went.

There is a freelancer got the backing of a big Media operation.

How did you do it? How did you afford it before ding it? Sorry? I crowdfunded to help me gather some of the cost because as a freelancer in this day and age the the amount that I sell an article for doesn't cover the amount I pay my fixed driver and whatever I need for the day so I used to I used crowdfunding model so people could support my work if they wanted to I made enough to be able to like.

Drivers and be able to go out every day and kind of get coverage during the first few weeks of the Invasion and how much did it cost if you don't mind me asking you know Costa up to like 1000 pounds a day for a decent days worth of work.

That's just in outgoings.

It's so you know to try and try and recoup some of that costs obviously doing radio hits MTV hits and selling articles help cover some of the costs but the day today especially you know invoicing and waiting 7 months for payments it I needed cash quicker than that so like you funding in similar ways a bit of a new model but I think people have been crowdfunding filmmakers have been crowdfunding the documentaries 4 years using this model so I just tried to combine that with my homework and my TV

And I'm interested in how easy it was to report the store in what were you coming up against what were the hardest things access was a real real problem.

You know get being able to get to where is what happening.

Obviously the Ukrainian military were trying their best to fight off an Invasion the last thing they wanted to deal with civilians running around please getting access to do things as a freelancer was harder than it would be you know if you've got a good company with the full Force behind you and that's what I'm trying to get accreditation was on hard, but I mean just having a gravitation and also getting access that that's a lot harder particularly for Frontline work.

You know it's really really dangerous stuff, so close to that kind of areas is not easy and it requires money and effort requires.

You know the right now in the right people on that stuff takes a while to get going and it was them from.

You know you've been in and out of ukraines about the last 6-months and very recently reporting from there an American audience has the wall been covered differently in the US than the UK I don't think so pretty.

I mean.

I think we all charged journalist on the ground charged with the same thing and share the same passion which is to find the story that you think is the most interesting to the audience on that day.

I was very keen going and recently to get a sense of how the war was being forward at the front lines because I think that gives an understanding as to how the war is going to be fought over the coming months and inside perhaps centre.

How long this war is going to go on and and The Likely is the cases at the moment the less likely source of significant shifts in interim territory, so I think the driving force is still to find that story that really help.

Understand what's happening and I think back a little bit here to covering Bosnia back in the in the early 90s this was a complete that went on for 3 years and it was it was on the phone for so long that you're up.

Just didn't didn't didn't care didn't noticed your job as a reporter is the define what is the housemate the audience so I think that's what I think you know whether I'm waiting for you know us international organisation or I think we'll driven by the same thing I mean president Biden today announced 3 billion dollars for Ukraine to invest in Air Defence systems are the weapons equipment.

Do you see that as in part because the me the story of the spotlight political imperatives right now for leaders all round the world and supporting Ukraine not least their The Rising cost of fuel.

The coming out of the covid pandemic, you know the rising cost of living these realities you have to bring your Nations with you in support of something.

You know why the war in Ukraine supporting Ukraine so I do think that the coverage helps keeping alive in people's Minds what's actually happening.

What's at stake? What's it cost the lives of being down and under and being committed and I think that does help political leaders agreed that again.

That's not I don't think that's our role is the Gallagher and Report was happening it is an approach.

You know well tried and tested that you know the big news companies send their reported in when there is a big story in whatever it is disparaging me called parachute journalism.

I wonder what you make of it as a journalist in the country where there is a wall right now.

Well on the one hand it of course good the Raj on this coming to pray and you know they are continuing to cover this war 6-month into it of course.

I think the journalist will have been covering you before this was conversion they can contribute more to the international media break me in my garden my colleagues.

They are also you know doing a very important part of the job because they understand the local context they have contacts on the ground.

They have a lot of you know this contact when you might not have to send official letters to get an interview from the ministry, but maybe you have a colleague that you were a couple of years ago together and now they working at the ministry and can organise like things easier and also a lot like what matters a lot of people in Ukraine and journalist in Ukraine they are leaving this course.

They are not just reporting it the 11th.

And you know they themselves affected by their families their loved ones that are friends have been affected more difficult to stay emotionally detached from happening and you'll have to come before he know reporting before writing something that you're living it this way it kind of give you more in-depth understanding and information also coming from your forces.

Can you can get this information can be more first-hand then for foreign journalists was president has been a face of the war in the west the narrative centred around this Bray form of standing up for his country.

How do you think the Ukrainian government shaped the West's understanding of the wall?

Well, I think I'm gonna Lincoln President zelensky very good job on the communication.

They have been able to really read the hearts and Minds of people across the world also appealing to different audiences with different messages.

That's what present address as to where is parliament Tailoring his message to different audiences referencing the history of this country and compared to the present situation in Ukraine so I think they're doing quite quite a good job and the part of this excess is also they are genuine you know they're not this communication is not fair.

I'm just chilling interrupt you.


Just as I was looking at a book.

We write the word for it says by John Merrick called reporting the war in Ukraine includes articles including mild colic in Channel 4 news Alex Thompson is Chief correspondent there he says the Ukraine

Profoundly effective controls over the media in this war and then message remarkably well stitched up Deborah what do you think of that? I mean how tight you can tell has the freedom to report in Ukraine been it's but I think the things you have to remember is it so this is a country at war and say the rules of a peacetime nation can't apply information as much of a weapon especially given the internet and given the ability to influence your seeing both sides are obvious fully aware of that and have got a sophisticated information operations they need the ukrainians need that in order to push back at the vast swathes of this information that has been pumped out by the Kremlin machine.

Complete trees and full accountability next you see that as a full picture you stop you putting out information.

That's operationally sensitive.

They don't want a video that could be used as sort of bomb damage assessment video so getting close to damage building government buildings that kind of video getting out and there is that pressure from the Ukrainian government on their own citizens as well not to put out that kind of this also the Ukrainian government doesn't strikes recorded until it has officially reported them again for the same reason.

This is very similar.

I would say to too many other complex I've covered but you know you can get you know we won't make a liar for a few weeks to get suffered the night of the heaviest bombardments buildings that have been head.

We said and reporting are building said we can't show because there.

To the to the military, so I think there are ways of the mayor spoke about collaborators going around passing information about staying where they seen you know military vehicles, so I think the man himself admitted to the fact that that sort of information is being directly used against the government so you know I don't want to Waze to report it is even here or knows about you know whether we're being shown the full picture stop me from doing my journalism or stop me from reporting things that might be inconvenient Ukraine the one thing that they didn't want me to do is film active positions or buildings that.

Used for military they didn't want to give away information to the enemy and I think there's a difference between that and some sort of like state censorship on you know there's no one telling you around like go to China tried to report on the concentration camps and ginger and there's no minder Ukrainian minder with you, but just like please don't feel this we've got soldiers here.

We don't want to be bombed and I think that's a very real thing for a country.

That's a water ask journalists to do and I don't think that it's a violation of our you know ethical conduct to to adhere to those friends because you know this is a operational security matter both of the journalist involved on the ground and for the military and and Ukrainian authorities are here from the monitoring because you know there's a sense that we don't really get access to Russian controlled areas with less clear.

What's what's happening behind Russian lines at the start of the wall Francis you came on the media show and you told.

Russians were reporting this as a battle to do not suffice Ukraine like another two sides this really Katie because there are no signs that Russians are being prepared by state TV for some kind of scaling down of the Kremlin over objectives in Ukraine the dominant message on state tv.

Is certain to prevail although the nature this victory is never really spelled out on the talk shows that I spend a lot of time watching The Host will often introduce war Correspondents by saying what successes do you have to report today on the front as if that is the only possible thing they can talk about success that it's kind of Victory after victory been chalked up on the other hand the way the war is being frame changed in that before it was described as this kind of limited special military operation and sort of clipping ukraine's Wednesday always said that they will never hitting civilian targets although Force we knew that.

As it became clear that Ukraine was putting up stiff resistance and was gaining significant support from the west the messaging changed in the Russian state TV and then started to the this is a kind of civilisational battle with the west so the word War started being used used to differentiate between what they're doing in Ukraine which they still on special military operation, but they then talk about this kind of global standoff with the West and they described as a water some presenters of referred to the conflict is World War III this morning actually a prominent Russian opposition figure was arrested on charges of discrediting the UN forces and as he was being arrested.

He was asked by a journalist.

What are the rest and he said for a single phrase I called it an invasion of Ukraine ok? I'm actually that I saw that the Russian state TV channels have seen their audience has dropped by a quarter through this war.

Scrap present food is grip on the narrative is as strong as it was when we first had you on well, I think on the one hand yes, because people these people if this survey is reliable these people they're not turning to opposition Media they're not switching Western media on there not going vpns on my phone.

They simply becoming a political they calling the news a lot of people in Russia at their dachas their summer houses where they're doing a lot of gardening tending to their vegetables and I simply not watching the news and you have to remember that since the War started.

It's been water wall coverage and people probably can't stand it anymore because there is very little entertainment programming little sport.

No cookery shows do you think the Russian perspective has actually been lacking in reporting of this conflict in the Western media?

I don't think it's been lacking I think but I can talk from what I've seen in how we report the story is important to ensure that by arguments been put forward by President Putin are included in reports, but then it's all about truth and I'll call out by the photos in the lies that are coming from the Russian side when they are talking about the reasons for this invasion and I think failure to do that means that you're not giving the audience the correct story because it's really interesting to see if you look back to 2014 and the annexation of Crimea and how the language that uses Now talking back to what happened back then if so much clearer.

Where is back in 2014? It was a version of a grey area in some of the the report.

What's going on? I think because maybe it was a government couldn't believe what was happening right at the beginning to respond so I think yeah, I think I do think that the west be in contact.

We talk a lot about impartiality in journalism.

What does impartiality even mean when it comes to this war?

Speaking truth to power and power is line, then.

You're telling power that it's like and I think this happens and hips with the Russian government more egregiously lying but they're message dogs get traction the message gets traction in the Middle East a message gets traction in China the message gets traction in South Africa you know they're a part of the ball with Western democracy and these countries Russia China have been you know over recent years to unpick the message of democracies as being a sort of a safe and successful way forward, so I think Russia is getting its message heard in some parts of the world without being called out for the full Tunstead it perpetrates.

It's very difficult to believe much that comes directly from the Kremlin because their own track.

This is something that they created their own track record as it's such a variance with the truth and the obvious point here is as them saying to almost the day before the invasion of Ukraine they weren't going to in bed.

I mean when it comes to you as a Ukrainian journalist reporting in Ukraine is impartiality even something you aim for in your reporting definitely you will have to stick to the facts and emotions and feelings and the way that we are affected by this work from our opinion pieces can say that but if this is also give to people to speak that's what I always try to doing my reports.

You know it's not me.

It's the people that are there.

What's wrong with big question for the end, but I might do you see part of your role as a gathering evidence for potential war crimes prosecutions has that become the role of a journalist? I've already been contacted by the United Nations investigative body conducting a war crimes investigations and Ukraine with regards to presenting evidence that I've collected.

I do think it's important.

I agree with everything my colleagues critically about speaking truth to power particularly about impartiality meaning that we have to call out lies as part of our job and and you know maybe being freelance gives me the opportunity to not have to worry about would never say to me today and thank you cast from Sky News Robertson CNN Oz katerji and all guitar you both freelance journalist and Francis Scarr BBC monitoring the media show will be.

The same time next week but for now.

Thank you so much for listening goodbye.

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