A delegation of Ukrainian media professionals spent a week in Washington learning about the American perspective on “Countering False Information and Media Literacy.” The Septermber 2017 visit was sponsored by the Open World Leadership Center and the program was organized and implemented by the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation (USUF). The members of the delegation were: Olena Churanova (StopFake.org), Mykhailo Makaruk (InformNapalm.org), Alina Pravdychenko (Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law), Petro Shuklinov (Liga.net), Vitaliy Syzov (Donetsk Institute of Information) and Tetiana Vorobiova (Facilitator, Open World). Adrian Karmazyn of USUF coordinated the program.
The media professionals from Ukraine participated in a series of meetings that were highly relevant to the challenges they face back home. They met leading national journalists—Michele Kelemen (National Public Radio) and Cheryl Thompson (The Washington Post and George Washington University) who, respectively, discussed coverage of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and investigative corruption reporting. They got a sampling of Ukraine-related issues on Capitol Hill by meeting with Senator Chris Van Hollen’s foreign affairs legislative assistant, Afreen Akhter, and attending a Friends of Ukraine Network briefing on assistance for Ukraine. Issues of disinformation and fake news (particularly coming from Russia) were highlighted in discussions with Helsinki Commission staff and in a hearing on “The Scourge of Russian Disinformation,” as well as in discussing the Pulitzer Center’s media literacy programs.
The issue of the legal defense of journalists was addressed at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. At the Kleptocracy Initiative they received an in-depth presentation about the relationship between authoritarian leaders and global corruption and how it is undermining American democracy. The delegates found their visit to WAMU-FM intriguing in terms of the radio station’s financial and journalistic independence (based on listener support), the loyalty of its listeners, the prestige of the station and the large number of volunteers who contribute their time there. (Some in the group wondered if this model could be emulated in Ukraine). During a discussion at Internews the delegates encouraged Western assistance providers to work with existing non-oligarch media in Ukraine that already have a significant audience rather than creating new outlets. The group also met with Amanda Bennett, the Director of the Voice of America, and with VOA’s Ukrainian Service, which interviewed Vitaliy Syzov.
The delegates considered their private meeting with Ambassador William Taylor to be one of the top events of the week. Another highlight was their visit to the Newseum–a museum devoted to the news media and freedom of the press. They also had the opportunity to attend a Ukrainian Independence reception at the U.S. Institute of Peace, the opening of the annual Ukrainian Festival at the St. Andrew Orthodox Cathedral grounds in Silver Spring, and to spend an afternoon touring the historic neighborhoods of Annapolis. During their week-long stay in the Washington area, the delegates lived with host families in Sandy Spring and Olney, Maryland.
Photo at top of page: Ukrainian journalists visit National Public Radio headquarters in Washington.