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Impressive Ukrainian journalists conference in New York City

May 29, 2024 | Community, Featured

Volodymyr Kish for New Pathway – Ukrainian News.

The association of Ukrainian Journalists of North America (UJNA) held their annual conference in New York City on May 16th and 17th, and it was by far the most impressive such meeting ever held. I have been going to these conferences for over a decade, and never have we had such a stellar array of speakers, presenters and panelists.

Over the two days of the conference, attendees heard interesting and authoritative analyses and discussions that focused understandably on the current war on Ukraine, particularly from the perspective of journalists covering the war. In attendance were not only Ukrainian journalists from Canada and the U.S., but also from Europe (including Ukraine), as well as global security analysts, diplomats, business leaders and academics. There were participants from the BBC, NBC, CNN, the Atlantic Council, Forbes Magazine, the National Post, Google and many others.

UJNA President Jurij Klufas

There were no less than twelve different sessions in an ambitious agenda spread over the two days of the conference covering such topics as Risks to Journalists Covering the War, Russian Disinformation, Ecocide as a Tool of War, Truth in Journalism, Creating History, and Corruption in Ukraine. Sessions on the first day of the conference were held at the prestigious Ukrainian Institute of America which overlooks New York’s unique Central Park, while the second day of sessions took place at the superb facilities of the NBC Studios in Rockefeller Plaza.

A number of sessions stood out for me personally, foremost being the presentation by Sevgil Musaieva, the Editor-in-Chief of Ukrayinska Pravda, the foremost independent news platform in Ukraine. With a staff of some 60+ employees and some 26 million readers per month, it is the definitive information source as to what is happening in Ukraine. She discussed at length the risks faced by journalists covering the war, noting that 76 of them, both Ukrainian and international, have died covering the fighting. She is convinced that the Russians are deliberately targeting journalists. She also dwelt on the fact that under martial law, Ukrainian journalists are becoming increasingly constrained by their own government. As the stresses of the war take their toll on Ukrainian authorities, they are acting increasingly antagonistic to criticisms in the press, by intimidating investigative journalists, wiretapping their phones and hacking their internet accounts, initiating criminal investigations, threatening to conscript them into the armed forces, and bullying them online.

Sevgil Musaieva, the Editor-in-Chief of Ukrayinska Pravda

Vadym Karpiak from Ukraine’s ICTV also spoke at length about the challenges facing Ukrainian journalists as a result of the war. Almost all of them have had friends and colleagues killed or wounded as a result of the war. One cannot help but be psychologically affected when you learn that a soldier you interviewed has been subsequently killed. He is saddened by the fact that now that the war is into its third year, international focus on covering the war has slackened considerably and one only sees coverage when something horrible happens.

Another session that stood out was a “fireside” chat between co-hosts Michael Bociurkiw and Melissa Ricci, and Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Serhiy Kyslytsya, who in contrast to most diplomats, who tend to speak a lot while saying very little, was refreshingly outspoken and even provocative. He reinforced that fact that Russia is a spent empire that has now become dependent on its senior partner China for survival as a consequence of Putin’s misguided invasion of Ukraine. He commented particularly on Russia’s massive investment in disinformation and propaganda, adding that we in the West must become as passionate in reporting the truth as Russia is in lying. His comments echoed those of a panelist in an earlier session, Jessica Berlin. A German geopolitical/security expert who stated that the Internet has become swamped by Russian “Radical B.S.”

L-R: Serhiy Kyslytsya, Melissa Ricci, Michael Bociurkiw

In a session covering ecocide in Ukraine, Dr. Sasha Dovzhyk, the editor-in-chief of the London Ukrainian Review now based in Lviv, Ukraine covered in great detail the environmental damage being caused by the Russians in Ukraine. Over 30% of Ukrainian territory has been either mined or polluted by Russian forces. Regrettably, international journalists tend to ignore this aspect of the war, preferring to cover military activities.

Diane Francis, author and columnist with the National Post, in her comments, urged Ukraine’s allies and supporters to work aggressively to “decolonialize” the Russian empire. She also called on the world’s major religions to lobby the American evangelical churches to stop parroting Russian propaganda and lies about religious persecution in Ukraine.

The last event of the conference was a working administrative session of the UJNA, at which operational issues and challenges were discussed. One outcome of this was a proposal to create a Ukrainian Journalism Intern Endowment Fund to help develop future Ukrainian journalists within North America.

As well as the formal sessions, there was plenty of time to socialize and network. A reception at the end of the first day of the conference was one such opportunity, with guests being treated to an array of Ukrainian hors-oeuvres accompanied by excellent Ukrainian and Moldovan wines.

Conferences such as this not only serve to educate and motivate those involved in the journalistic profession but help shed light and publicity on the existential threat facing not only Ukraine, but global peace and security as well. Kudos goes to the chief organizers of this conference, namely Michael Bociurkiw and Jurij Klufas.

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