Journalists from Four TV Channels from the Republic of Moldova Instructed How to Cover Topics with and about Refugees from Ukraine in an Ethical and Responsible Way

Journalists from TV8, Jurnal TV, Elita TV, Studio-L, as well as from Moldova 1 public TV channel, learned the principles of ethical coverage of problems faced by refugees from the local and international experts, studied various strategies for presenting conflict-related issues, and discussed why ethical and reasonable communication is so important for making materials with and about people who left Ukraine. The topics were discussed during the training session held on September 4-5 by the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) in partnership with UNESCO within the framework of the “Support for Ukrainian Refugees through the Media” project.

For two days, the local and international experts were guiding the participants in covering topics about refugees in an impartial, balanced, and fact-based manner, involving them in various practical exercises.

Conflict-sensitive reporting specialist Peter du Toit from South Africa facilitated a discussion that focused on the critical role journalists can play in helping to build bridges between displaced Ukrainian citizens living in Moldova and their host communities. During his presentation, he stressed that in-depth, responsible reporting can contribute towards the creation of conditions that can allow parties in conflict to communicate with each other and enable them to find solutions together. He stressed that this meant that journalists need to try to learn about the different parties needs and interests and find ways of helping people to understand the concerns of other parties involved in conflicts. “Journalists can’t do it by themselves, but good journalism can play an important role in enabling people to manage their problems,” the expert remarked.

Esther Enkin, Former Head of News, Former Ombudsperson, CBC, international expert, focused on ethical and deontological principles of communicating with refugees. “A victim has to be treated with respect every time. You have to avoid such expressions as ‘I understand you’ because we are not in their situations to be really able to understand how they feel. We need to demonstrate empathy and compassion towards the problems of those we are talking to. In many cases, to make them feel more open-hearted, we have to give them time. Besides, the better we understand a community, the better we will be able to tell a story. You don’t need to have an ambition to be the first to do it. No one will remember if you were the first to publish the news, but everyone will remember if you do something wrong. Therefore, checking the facts before publishing them is really important,” the expert affirms.

Monica Vazquez, External Relations Officer at UNHCR Moldova, spoke about the institution’s experience in cooperating with refugees. “It was very difficult from the beginning, but gradually, we deserved their trust. We also made lots of mistakes when writing about refugees, but we learned from our own mistakes. Currently, we have a guide with strict rules we are supposed to comply with. We have learned to be fair, sensitive, and empathetic without going to the other extreme,” Monica Vazquez said.

During the instructive session, the experts encouraged the journalists to share their experiences while preparing reports which involved refugees.

Silvia Melega, Studio-L journalist from Causeni, mentions that, since the very first day of the war, journalists have been aware of challenges and conflicts in which persons arriving from Ukraine were involved. “During these two days, we have been sharing useful information. We were discussing how to cover the aspects of refugees’ fears, which topics concerning refugees should be covered by the media, and found out which falsehoods about refugees were the most common. Besides, we covered the topics of respectful, receptive, and caring communication, as well as consent and personal data protection. I can also add that the formula ‘good job + ethics = good journalism’ is still as valid as ever,” the journalist specifies.

Angela Zaharova, Elita TV producer from Rezina, affirms that “the training experience was a special one.” “We reassessed the lessons and ethical dilemmas we’ve all been facing since the war in the neighboring country broke out, when we had to figure out how to write about people arriving from Ukraine. For two days, we were analyzing audio and video content about refugees, solved practical cases of conflict management, and I can say that I’ve learned from the experience of our colleagues from Canada and South Africa. At the same time, we had an affluence of ideas and were sharing knowledge among us, the journalists from the Republic of Moldova. I guess that, informally, we’ll make a common hub in the coming months of this project and create audiovisual content which is attractive and useful to the public,” Angela Zaharova said.

The training session participants admitted that the outbreak of the war in the neighboring country was an immense challenge for the media in the Republic of Moldova, and the lack of experience in covering sensitive topics and armed conflicts correctly was obvious. „Thanks to this training session, we as the journalists have had an opportunity and managed to learn from the best specialists how to properly cover the topics about refugees and atrocities committed by the Russian army in Ukraine. We’ve had two days full of useful content, and we have been trained how to inform people about such issues and how to bring the stories and needs of refugees from Ukraine to the fore, helping to increase empathy towards these people. Access to information, as well as freedom of expression, are fundamental human rights for every one of us. For millions of refugees, these rights are crucial in the current circumstances, and media institutions should cover such topics in a very delicate manner to give people a correct final product, which is exactly what Jurnal TV also strives for while preparing materials and shows with and about Ukrainian refugees,” Calin Jucovschi, a journalist from Jurnal TV, mentions.

In the coming months, TV8, Jurnal TV, Elita TV, and Studio-L, partners within the “Support for Ukrainian Refugees through the Media” project, will be creating the content about and with the participation of refugees from Ukraine.

The “Support for Ukrainian Refugees through the Media” project implemented by the IJC and funded by the Government of Japan is a UNESCO initiative developed within the framework of the Regional Refugee Response Plan for Ukraine coordinated by UNHCR.


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