How Ukrainian Journalists Are Covering Their Country’s Invasion
The situation in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv continues to change at a breakneck pace. Within days, residents went from not believing that Russia would attack their country to hiding in bomb shelters and praying for help. Some left the city, while others picked up automatic weapons to defend it against a ground invasion.
All the while, local Ukrainian news agencies on the ground have worked to provide accurate information to their audiences so they can make informed decisions. Amid the assault on Ukraine, the country’s journalists have continued – under extraordinary circumstances – to do their job: reporting the news.
One of these outlets is Kyiv Post, who continued in office, despite such challenges. Bohdan Nahaylo, the newspaper’s editor, spoke to me by phone on Friday and described the multitude of obstacles the outlet had to overcome to continue its operations.
Nahaylo said when Ukraine faced its first wave of attacks, the Kyiv Post was taken offline by a DDoS cyberattack, which he suspects was carried out by Russia. “We were getting huge hits that were overriding our systems,” he told me. Nahaylo said that during this period, the newspaper continued to publish the news by posting short stories on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
“Then the other issue was that fear and uncertainty affected the staff,” Nahaylo told me. “Obviously they had families and some decided to leave and so they evacuated and stuck in traffic. Some were in bomb shelters. It was a logistical nightmare created by both the strikes from missiles, people being out of place, the system not working and it was much more difficult to communicate with each other.
But the Kyiv Post continued to pull through, with its staff publishing about 25-30 articles a day. “We think it’s very important to provide up-to-date, reliable and objective information,” Nahaylo said. “There is a lot of demand. People read what you post.
Nahaylo and the journalists who work for him know that there are real risks to their safety right now. “We want to get the news out, but we prioritize staff safety,” he told me. Nahaylo closed the newspaper’s offices earlier this week and asked staff to work from home. “Some of them have left Kyiv. Some are in villages, some have gone west of the country, some have left the country,” he said. “So we are very scattered, but united as we wish to continue.”
“I have told several of my colleagues not to use their name when reporting on the latest developments, to just file under the name ‘Kyiv Post’,” Nahaylo added. “Because we don’t want them to be targeted immediately if there is going to be a short-term occupation.” Nahaylo said the newspaper has also backed up its systems so that its archives are not lost. For now, staff members communicate via Slack, which he describes as “very efficient”, but also have backup methods they can use.
“With the spotlight on Ukraine,” Nahaylo said, “it was a really good opportunity for us to shine and show the world what we can do.”
Major Ukrainian TV companies are also united in their determination to deliver the news to their viewers. Several groups – 1+1 Media, StarLightMedia, Media Group Ukraine and Intermedia Group – released a joint statement saying they had suspended commercial breaks and were continuously broadcasting news updates.
“Our task is to defend the information space, to cover events as widely as possible, to debunk the fakes and to deliver the most important messages to Ukrainians as quickly as possible. And also to help quell mass panic and give people clear instructions on how to act in a particular area at the same time,” the statement read, according to a Google translation. “There are continuous broadcasts on our channels, we have disabled the ad block and talk nonstop, so that each of our viewers feels close and receives timely and truthful information…”
TV companies have also been busy “enacting contingency plans that have been in place for many years,” Deadline’s Max Goldbart reported. StarLightMedia’s head of news production, Oksana Dychnich, said they had long anticipated such scenarios and had contingencies in place which are now being activated. Dychnich said they were “doing our best so that we can continue to report but feel comfortable on the technology, content and security side.”
“No matter your politics, this is a time when the media must unite the country,” she added passionately. “That’s our goal.”
A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can register for free here.