As it is clear, the closer one gets to the conflict zone, the higher is the level of mistrust in Ukrainian media. That is to say, those who can verify information reported by Ukrainian media by means of direct observation (‘look out of the window’) or using personal contacts trust the media reports less than those who have limited opportunities to check them.
In 2015, the data of monitoring ‘Ukrainian society’ produced even worse results. Now, every fifth Ukrainian trusts it, and every second does not trust it. An improvement of the situation is only possible through strictly following journalistic standards, and reporting reliable and relevant information to the audience, including information about war.
But if the society does not trust the Ukrainian media, how strong is the influence of Russian propaganda on the people? And is there a way to work effectively against the propaganda?
According to the results of numerous surveys (including the surveys conducted by Internews), the level of confidence in Russian media is low (in average 4% in all Ukraine, about 9% in Donbas). Thus, the influence is not significant. The reason for it consists not in the prohibition of practically all Russian channels, but in the propagandistic activity of most Russian media. Unfortunately, Ukrainian journalism replies to Russian propaganda with the same propaganda, but pro-Ukrainian. This is an extremely inefficient form of reply. The fundamental truth that propaganda should be answered by the true and reliable information does not still influence the activity of Ukrainian media.
Can or should Ukrainian journalists refer to European standards of journalism for orientation, given the fact that Europe has not faced such a war for more than 70 years?
I do not completely agree with the phrase ‘standards of European journalism’. These are rather world journalism standards that have been worked out by professional journalists over the centuries of the profession’s existence. These are reliability of information (the necessity in its thorough verification, clear reference to the sources), balance, completeness of reporting, accuracy and some others. Following these standards is just as obligatory in peace as under the conditions of war. The audience is turning to the media not for a portion of propaganda, but for information that appropriately reflects the reality.
There are some severe conflicts in Europe as well (Northern Ireland is only one example) and their coverage in the activity of our Western colleagues should be a model for Ukrainian journalists. For example, the BBC followed the journalists' standards when they were doing reports of the events not only in Northern Ireland, but also the Falklands War. They were sort of "above the battles". Their work could be an example for Ukrainian mass media when they report on the situation in Donbas. Their audience should always receive full, unbiased, verified and balanced information. But it goes against what many Ukrainian journalists consider patriotism. I believe, honest work is the true journalist's patriotism, not producing propaganda.