Are foreign media adequately highlighting the events in Ukraine? What should we do to help them in this? – these questions were in the focus of discussion during the roundtable “Euromaidan through Europe’s eyes,” which took place recently in the revolutionary Ukrainian House. It was attended by Ukrainian intellectuals, who shared their own experience of communication with Western media, as well as Western journalists. The meeting took place within the framework of the Open University and newly created volunteer initiative “Media Guard MaidanPost,” which aims at forming a discussion expert platform and such space of compromise and understanding, which, according to the organizers, is the determinative feature of European culture since the early modern period of history.
The suggested topic seems extremely topical today, for in the global world every, even at first sight local phenomenon, depends on the factors and events that may take place thousands kilometers away from it. Actually, further development of events in Ukraine depends not only on the results of confrontation in the streets and agreements made by Ukrainian politicians, but also the steps which the key players on the international arena are ready to make, in particular, on the stance of the West. Western politicians, unlike their Ukrainian colleagues, are used to take into consideration the public opinion, which not in the last turn depends on the work of the mass media. Namely for this reason the image of the revolutionary processes in Ukraine broadcasted by the Western media may well influence the outcome.
The invitees included the famous blogger and philosopher Volodymyr YERMOLENKO. He thinks the work of European media today is quite objective, and they often to a certain extent prove their solidarity with Ukrainian protesters. However, there are some flaws, too. “In the West there is always a temptation to look at the events in Ukraine like at a kind of a geopolitical chess game,” Yermolenko says. Say, certain pro-Russian forces and pro-European forces are fighting here. However, the protest against the dictatorship and authoritarianism becomes a secondary thing. Besides, Western media, like most of mass media in general, often tend to make emphasis on the aggression and conflict situations, ousting from the information field the reports about amazing manifestations of kindness which take place in the Maidan – solidarity, mutual help, self-sacrifice, etc.” At the same time, the topic of neo-fascism in Ukraine is broached in European mass media with unjustified frequency, but according to Yermolenko’s observations, people with specific bios, engaged in the leftist movements most often turn to this topic.
“To overcome these negative tendencies, Ukrainians should put certain efforts as well,” Kostiantyn SIHOV, a scholar and head of the publishing house “Dukh I Litera,” considers. Incidentally, he was one of the initiators of the recent visit to Ukraine of French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy. “When we were standing in front of the stage in Maidan, waiting till we would be given the floor, I saw that he received a message from France’s president,” Sihov said, “I think the text this philosopher wrote after his visit to Ukraine was read not only by Francois Hollande, but many influential European politicians as well.” Later Levy, who is the editor-in-chief of the magazine La Regle du Jew, offered to create on the website of the publication a blog called “Diary from Kyiv” with content filled by Ukrainian authors. Kostiantyn Sihov, whom Levy proposed to run this blog, called upon everyone to join filling the resource: “Imagine that the president of France is standing in front of you; what would you like to tell him?” In such a way, he thinks, we can encourage Western journalists to offer messages that are richer in content to their audiences instead of purely informative reports. “Western journalists can hear deeper thoughts mouthed by Ukrainian intellectuals only when those would be translated into the language of their cultural code,” the scholar emphasized. For example, Sihov shared his own experience of communication with the editorial office of the French newspaper Le Monde. “In a conversation with journalists I explained that Ukrainian Marianna today very much differs from the French one [disabled girl, whom Maidan cooks chose as their symbol. – Author]. Only with the help of this image we managed to talk them out of the idea to write about extremist movements in the context of the Maidan.” Sihov thinks we must explain to Western colleagues the ethos, specifics, and entire versatility of Ukrainian protests. “New work created by Valentyn Sylvestrov, dedicated to Serhii Nigoyan’s memory, can ‘cope’ with these tasks much better than merely informative reports about new clashes,” the scholar thinks.
“Internally European context often plays a crucial role in highlighting Ukrainian events,” considers the journalist of France 24 Gulliver CRAGG. So, ultra-right parties stand good chances to win in the future elections to the European Parliament, and this prospect frightens many Europeans. Therefore, Cragg thinks, they tend to look for neo-fascists in Euromaidan. On the other hand, Ukrainian events can open eyes for many Europeans on certain problems in their countries, the journalist thinks. The question is about, in particular, the recently published studies which describe the connection between corrupted state officials in Ukraine and European banks. Further highlighting of this topic may, Cragg thinks, partially oust from the media space popular, often ungrounded, materials about geopolitics and far right movements.
Among the guests there was also writer Yurii ANDRUKHOVYCH, whose works are translated into many European languages. He always follows carefully the Western press and often gives interviews and commentaries. Recalling his own experience of communicating with journalists of The New York Times the writer noted that they were especially surprised by the story about anti-Semitism spread among the fighters of Ukrainian task forces. According to him, before writing this in the article, American journalists verified the information in several sources. “We will never succeed in making Western journalists tell unanimously only good things about the Maidan, because the right to have various, in particular, wrong views, is the determinative feature of European culture,” Andrukhovych emphasized. “At the same time it is worth ascertaining that today the West understands Ukraine better than in 1991 or 2004. The main problem is that Western media don’t tend to highlight Ukrainian events. The Orange Revolution, Euro-2012, Euromaidan, – they talked about this, but only for several days. However, the Western media did not report at all about the beating of Tetiana Chornovol, because it coincided with Christmas. The events of January 19 in Hrushevsky Street came unexpected for their journalists – they could not understand the reasons. We must encourage our Western colleagues to open offices of their newspapers here, so that their journalists could stay on a regular basis in Ukraine – the country where the destiny of Europe is decided.”