A delegation of Ukrainian media professionals spent a week in Washington to learn about the American perspective on “Countering False Information and Media Literacy”. The September 2017 visit was sponsored by the Open World Leadership Center and the program was organized and implemented by the US-Ukraine Foundation (USUF). The members of the delegation were: Olena Churanova (StopFake.org), Mykhailo Makaruk (InformNapalm.org), Alina Pravdychenko (Center for Democracy and Rule of Law), Petro Shuklinov (Liga.net), Vitaliy Syzov (Donetsk Institute of Information) and Tetiana Vorobiova (Facilitator, Open World). Adrian Karmazyn from the USUF coordinated the program.
Ukrainian media professionals participated in a series of meetings very relevant to the challenges they face at home. They featured 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 corruption investigative reports. They obtained a sample of Ukraine-related matters on Capitol Hill by meeting Senator Chris Van Hollen’s legislative assistant for foreign affairs, Afreen Akhter, and attending a Friends of Ukraine network briefing on assistance to Ukraine. Matters of disinformation and fake news (particularly from Russia) were highlighted in discussions with Helsinki Commission staff and a hearing on “The Scourge of Russian Disinformation”, as well as in the discussion of Pulitzer Center’s media literacy programs. .
The issue of the legal defense of journalists was addressed at the Committee of Journalists for Press Freedom. At the Kleptocracy Initiative they received an in-depth presentation on the relationship between authoritarian leaders and global corruption and how it is undermining American democracy. 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 station’s prestige and the large number of volunteers contributing with their time there. (Some in the group wondered if this model could be emulated in Ukraine). During a discussion at Internews, delegates encouraged Western care providers to work with existing non-oligarch media in Ukraine that already have significant audiences rather than creating new outlets. The group also met Amanda Bennett, the director of Voice of America, and the Ukrainian service of VOA, who interviewed Vitaliy Syzov.
Delegates considered their private meeting with Ambassador William Taylor one of the most important events of the week. Another highlight was their visit to the Newseum, a museum dedicated to the media and freedom of the press. They also had the opportunity to attend a Ukrainian Independence Reception at the US Institute of Peace, the opening of the annual Ukrainian Festival at the grounds of St. Andrew’s Orthodox Cathedral in Silver Spring, and spend an afternoon visiting the historic neighborhoods of Annapolis. During their week-long stay in the Washington area, delegates lived with host families in Sandy Spring and Olney, Maryland.
Top of page: Ukrainian journalists visit National Public Radio headquarters in Washington.