IREX Europe together with the Russian Union of Journalists and National Union of Journalists of Ukraine held a panel discussion at World Press Freedom Day 2016. Our panel entitled Two Countries, One Profession: A Dialogue between Ukrainian and Russian Journalists brought journalists from Russia and Ukraine to Helsinki, Finland on May the 2nd, allowing them to share their views with the audience on the challenges the Russia/Ukraine conflict poses to journalists and how the two journalism communities have responded to those challenges. Since a Memorandum signed in May 2014 between the Independent Media Trade Union of Ukraine, the National Union of the Journalists of Ukraine and the Russian Union of Journalists, the participants have come together to improve the safety of their members, help maintain professional journalism standards, and remind governments about their commitment to respect media freedom and freedom of expression and lobby for an end to violations of the rights of journalists and members of the media by state and non-state actors.
As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, freedom of expression is the right of every individual to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. Freedom of expression, respect of the other, and professionalism are the pillars of a healthy coexistence both national and international.
The panel Two Countries, One Profession. A Dialogue Between Ukrainian and Russian Journalists took place on May 2nd, 14:00 – 15:30, Veranda 4, Finlandia Hall, Mannerheimintie 13 e, 00100 Helsinki, Finland.
The event was opened with a presentation of IREX’s Eurasia and Europe Media Sustainability Index, with an emphasis on Russia and Ukraine.
Key conclusions for supporting media workers on both sides of the border were:
Focussing on the security conditions of the journalists and not on the conflict between the countries;
Avoiding politicizing the partnership and following a common goal, namely to protect the rights of the journalists, irrespective of country of origin. The presentation’s session ended with a reference by the moderator to Tolstoy’s statement - ‘the hero of my story is truth’. The panellists support the idea behind the comment as being a guiding motto for the journalists.
Moderator: Nick Nugent, Independent Journalist
World Press Freedom Day is held in a different city every year and hosted by UNESCO. The event contributes to a more informed society on violations of press freedom, highlighting cases in countries around the world where publications continue to be censored, journalists, editors, and publishers continue to be harassed, attacked, detained, and even murdered. This year, UNESCO and the Government of Finland co-hosted the World Press Freedom Day’s main event and the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize Ceremony which took place in Helsinki, from 2-4 May 2016. The theme for 2016 was Access to Information and Fundamental Freedoms: This Is Your Right!
Since October 2014, IREX Europe in partnership with the Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law (Ukraine), a Russia-based partner and the International Senior Lawyers Project (US/EU) have been implementing the EU-funded Media Freedom Support project seeking to support freedom of the press and the rule of law in Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan, by building local capacities and providing emergency support to journalists and press freedom activists. The project aims to build the capacities journalists and lawyers in the target countries in domestic media law and European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) procedures to enable them to provide legal assistance to media workers at risk in their countries, with the overall objective of bringing more press freedom cases before the ECHR in Strasbourg.