Anastasia Stanko, a Ukranian journalist, is back on the frontline, wearing a helmet and bulletproof vest, after a brief pause in the picturesque town of Fažana, Croatia, where she spoke to media professionals at an event organized by SEENPM.
SEENPM hosted the panel, “Women War Reporters – Experiences from Ukraine and BiH” at Fažana Media Fest on 10 September. Three journalists, Anastasia Stanko and Yaroslava Tymoshchuk from Ukraine and Aida Čerkez from Bosnia, shared their experiences of working in war-affected zones.
Asked about the main challenges of covering the war in Ukraine, Tymoshchuk, based in Kiev and producing human-interest stories for Texty.org.ua, said that the biggest challenge is going through the war in one own’s country both as a journalist and a citizen, with no possibility of taking a break and distancing oneself. “You get used to what you document, but not to what is going on. This is an ethical issue for me”, she stressed.
Stanko, a war correspondent for Hromadske.ua, is constantly on the frontline where she relies on her driver, GPS navigation and a satellite phone to stay in touch with the newsroom team, who often lose track of her whereabouts. She says she takes care of her safety as much as possible, “but there is nothing to be done about shelling”, she said.
Aida Čerkez, a seasoned Bosnian reporter who began her career as a war correspondent in besieged Sarajevo during Bosnian war, shared her experience with the young Ukrainian journalists. Asked about journalistic objectivity and neutrality while being shot at, she said that objectivity and neutrality are different concepts:” If you pursue neutrality, you will fall into a trap of equalizing guilt. Simply report objectively, just tell the truth”.
“You have to put the truth out there, whether the people want to hear it or not, because if you provide the information and someone doesn’t want to read it and prefers the propaganda narrative because it makes them feel better about themselves, then you turn ignorance into a choice and you are putting the responsibility on the media consumer and not on the media”, Čerkez explained. It is precisely this logic that kept her reporting from the Bosnian war and the only way she could “exercise her vengeance towards the outside world that wasn’t doing anything about the war, that was standing by and watching”.
At the outbreak of the Ukrainian war, Čerkez sent a poignant letter to Ukrainians from the standpoint of a war survivor. Yet, she used the event to pass on a message she wanted to add to the letter: “If you start to hate every Russian on this planet because of this attack, you have lost the war”.
After the two Ukrainian journalists rejected the notion that independent Russian journalists may act in solidarity with their Ukrainian colleagues, Čerkez said she wished there had been a possibility to have liberal Russian journalists at the conference panel as well so as to understand the position of both sides. She believes that the best way to solve conflicts is through discourse. “If we let words fight, there would be less weapons“, Čerkez concluded.
“With this event, SEENPM was hoping to examine what the wars in Bosnia and Ukraine – which in many ways define two eras in European modern history – revealed and/or changed about the role and position of women reporters”, said Tihomir Loza, SEENPM executive director.
Fourth Fažana Media Fest took place between 5 and 11 September in a small Croatian town Fažana. With this year’s main topic “Women and the media”, the festival brought numerous workshops, exhibitions, performance, film screenings and sessions that celebrate women in journalism.
Fažana Media Fest is organized by Investigative Journalism Centre Croatia and co-organized by Municipality of Fažana, Tourist Association of Fažana, Informo, Media Diversity Institute and SEENPM.
Aida Čerkez is an editor at Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). Previously, she was head of the Associated Press bureau in Sarajevo for 24 years.
Anastasia Stanko is a journalist, TV presenter and member of the “Stop censorship” movement, an anti-censorship group of journalists and media organizations in Ukraine. In 2018 she received the International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists. One year later, she was awarded by the International Women Media Foundation for courage in journalism.
Yaroslava Tymoshchuk has been working as a journalist and editor in various Ukrainian newsrooms covering primarily social topics. She is based in Kyiv writing articles for media outlets such as Texty.org.ua, Reporters.media, Local History etc.
The panel discussion “Women War Reporters – Experiences from Ukraine and BiH” was organized in collaboration with IFEX.
This article was produced with the financial support of IFEX. Its contents are the sole responsibility of SEENPM and do not necessarily reflect the views of IFEX.