Dyczok: Struggling to inform the world

‘Excuse me, who are you and why are you here?’ Ukrainian Public Radio correspondent Andriy Kulykov asked a group of heavily armed men in unmarked uniforms near a military base in Perevalne, Crimea. He received no response.

Many have been asking, ‘What’s going on in Ukraine?,’ when the country hit the international headlines last November. People took to the streets to protest against corrupt President Victor Yanukovych’s unpopular turn away from the European Union (EU). He used force against them. And, recently, Russian troops invaded through the Crimean peninsula, causing what could become a major international crisis.

In today’s 24/7 news cycle, journalists face many challenges in trying to provide accurate, objective and timely information to society. Corporate and state pressures often lead to sensationalizing of news, framing it in ways that reflect owner or state interests. Entertainment is increasingly portrayed as information, rumour or misinformation can be reported as fact. International and Canadian media outlets have been reporting on Ukraine, but it’s often not easy to get a clear picture.

Similar pressures exist in Ukraine, and some journalists are responding in creative ways. One example is a group who formed Ukrainian Public Radio (Hromadske Radio) last summer.

Wanting to serve the public, rather than state or corporate interests, they created independent radio. Eventually, they hope to have their own frequency, but for now they are creating podcasts and posting them online. Friends working at other radio stations loaned them studio facilities, equipment, time. They launched a crowd-source-funding initiative to raise money, then received a small grant.

Colleagues from a commercial music station, EvropaPlus, gave them a few hours of free broadcast time when violence erupted on Kyiv streets in December. After the corrupt president fled the country, and a new interim government was put in place in late February, the state radio company gave them a few broadcast hours.

For the time being, they continue to work largely on a volunteer basis, reporting for Ukrainian Public Radio and putting their podcasts on line in between their other jobs.

“I would really like to be able to work for Public Radio full time,” said Iryna Slavinska, who currently works at three other media outlets, yet regularly does podcasts and interviews for Public Radio. Kulykov is BBC trained and hosts a live TV political talk show when he is not on the front lines reporting and taking interviews for Hromadske Radio.

Learn more about, or even support, Ukraine’s Public Radio after watching the video they made, explaining in their own words.

Marta Dyczok, a Western professor joint appointed in History and Political Science, specializes in international politics and history, with a focus on east central Europe and Eurasia, and specifically Ukraine. She will write on this issue in the March 13 issue of the Western News.