Lessons For the Media From Russian-Ukrainian War

Samvel Martirosyan

Media researcher

On June 14–15, the OSCE organized in Vienna a large international Conference on Journalists’ Safety, Media Freedom and Pluralism in Times of Conflict. The topic was decidedly quite broad, but actually the thread running through the conference was the undeclared Russian-Ukrainian war. Even speeches not directly related to this topic in one way or another used examples from this conflict.

It might seem that this is simply a result of political processes. And to some extent that’s true. But the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, or rather, information warfare, really has had and continues to have a qualitative effect on media.

The Russian-Ukrainian conflict introduces interesting changes to the media landscape; unique dimensions are emphasized, which weren’t as separate prior to the conflict. 

Thus, data verification, which has always been a part of journalistic work, becomes a separate developing area. This conflict, which has attracted countries with the greatest influence on the media, has a problem with coverage. 

This problem is due to several factors: the conflicting parties are fighting against journalists representing the opposing side, resulting in “white spots” emerging in the region where journalists are barred entry; the parties are trying to use methods of propaganda as much as possible, engaging social media; and the work of propaganda machines is given such high importance that propaganda moves to the forefront, choking news streams.

As a result, not only the news, but also uncovering misinformation becomes important for consumers. For this reason, sources identifying pure misinformation and propaganda, such as the well-known Ukrainian website Stop Fake and News Front, which represents the separatists, have acquired separate lives.

Unsurprisingly, a sharp rise in interest in propaganda and anti-propaganda can be observed — at both the public and state level. Propaganda begins to be viewed as not only supporting military operations, but also an independent process alongside military operations.

Consequently, a society suffering from and tired of propaganda has a demand for an independent, uncontrolled news outlet. As a result, emerging are news outlets for which the audience agrees to pay only so that it can have a news outlet outside the propaganda war. 

With the aim of keeping the media free, the Russian Dozhd TV (TV Rain) and the Ukrainian Hromadske TV, for instance, have adopted a public fundraising model.

Of course, these aren’t new occurrences. But the Russian-Ukrainian conflict has exacerbated these occurrences so much that it has led to the establishment of a new information reality. 

Samvel Martirosyan

The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.

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