REPORTING & COMMENTING GUIDELINES FOR WAR IN UKRAINE

By Sharoos Iroewin

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

Conflict reporting requires special skills, especially when doing so far from the the actual battleground (as is often the case and usually with western media reporting on the conflict in the Ukraine). Also journalists naturally want to eat, pay their mortgages and university fees for their children etc so it is important to write what is likely to get published which, in the last analysis and usually the first, will be decided by the editors of the news media paying them.

I’ve put together some dos and don’ts to help with that from my experience. Social media also plays an increasingly important role in public opinion and I’ve also provided some brief guidelines for interaction there.

MEDIA REPORTING

  1. DO NOT give any credence to constant reports of Ukrainian military using Ukrainian civilians as human shields. Now that Amnesty International has verified that pattern, publicise all the politicians and military criticising that report.
  2. LOOK FOR and repeat quotes of politicians accusing the Rusians of “targeting civilians”, practicing “terrorism” or even “genocide”.
  3. Any DAMAGE TO CIVILIAN HOMES or other buildings by artillery must always be by the Russian military to the Ukrainian state side of the conflict, never to the other side by Ukrainian artillery. Your editors do not want to read or hear about damage to the other side’s homes or civilian buildings.
  4. However, IT IS GREAT TO REPORT damage to Russian military or Donetsk People’s Militia and Luhansk People’s Militia, because it makes the Ukrainian state forces (and NATO weapons) look good.
  5. DAMAGE TO UKRAINIAN ARMED FORCES claimed by the Russians may be reported but always as an unverifiable claim, unless confirmed by Ukrainian state sources.
  6. DAMAGE TO RUSSIAN ARMED FORCES claimed by Ukrainian state sources should always be reported in as fact-seeming a manner as possible (though from time to time some agencies will insert the caveat of being “unable to verify the claims of either side at this time”).
  7. HUMAN INTEREST and emotional stories should always be from the Ukrainian state side. Dog-saving stories did very well but might have been overdone. Refugee or otherwise victim children, old people and women tend to make sympathetic subjects. Your editors are not interested in dogs, children, old people or women from the other side; they will only confuse the picture for readers.
  8. ALWAYS REPORT HUMANITARIAN SUPPLY OR EVACUATION corridors as at Ukrainian or external initiative and if failing, should always be reported as with Russian culpability.
  9. ALWAYS refer to the Donetsk People’s Militia and Luhansk People’s Militia as “pro-Russian” forces and never as defensive in origin.
  10. ALWAYS reference the conflict as beginning in 2022 with the Russian invasion.
  11. IF USING AN EARLIER TIME reference, write that it began with the “annexation of Crimea by Russia” in 2014
  12. NEVER refer to the Russian-speakers in the Donbas region being attacked in 2014 by Ukrainian fascists and military and in some areas successfully defending themselves.
  13. NEVER refer to the Russian-speakers in the Crimea holding a referendum in which a huge majority voted to ask to become part of Russia.
  14. AVOID REFERRING to political parties banned in Ukrainian state territory, reporters arrested or threatened, news media censored or closed and films and books banned. The same can however be freely reported when the Russian state is the one doing it.
  15. ALWAYS refer to the Ukrainian state as a democracy and the 2014 riots and abrupt change of government as a democratic one, never as a coup nor with reference to attacks on LGBT people, Roma, Left-wingers, Russian-speakers or any other group. Do not under any circumstances mention the burning alive of 42 people in a trade union hall by Ukrainian fascists.
  16. ALWAYS precede any reports on Russian military advances as being a response to “setbacks” or “failure” in a supposed “attempt to capture Kyiv”. Never give any credence to claims that the Russian military advance on Kyiv was in order to limit the Ukraine state’s ability to direct, supply and support Ukrainian state military elsewhere in the region. Or that Russia had nowhere enough troops there to try to take Kyiv.
  17. AVOID mentioning the Azov Regiment when possible (this was not possible when reporting on Mariupol, of course, since they were the core of the Ukrainian state forces there) but if doing so, NEVER call them “fascists” or “fascist-led”. It is of course permissible to refer to them as “nationalist” and sometimes as “having some far-Right members”.
  18. ALWAYS refer to Ukrainian state military fighting as “heroic” and any defeats due merely to Russian military equipment superiority. NEVER mention that the Russian invading force were outnumbered by Ukrainian military by four to one OR that the Russian military were not battle-hardened while the Ukrainian military had been fighting the defensive Russian-speaking areas’ militia for eight years.
  19. OCCASIONALLY refer to “demoralisation” or “war-weariness” among the Russian military (NEVER among the Ukrainian armed forces, least of all about their desertions).
  20. FREQUENTLY quote Premier Zelenski at length and Putin, if unavoidable, in brief.
  21. FREQUENTLY quote heads of state and prominent public figures etc of NATO countries, especially its leader, the USA in support of the Ukrainian state and against Russia.
  22. NEVER QUOTE public figures of those same states in criticising NATO or the Ukrainian state – doing so will only confuse people.
  23. ALWAYS present NATO as “a defensive military alliance which is no threat to anyone”.

SOCIAL MEDIA COMMENTING GUIDELINES ON THE WAR IN UKRAINE

ANY TIME someone posts an item which shows the Ukrainian regime in a nasty light, respond by posting comments

  • attacking them personally as “Putinistas” or “Putin whores”
  • as pro-Russian imperialism or as “Russian shils”
  • or attack their sources as of “Kremlin origin”, “Russian-funded”, etc
  • or post links to articles attacking Russia’s conduct in the Ukraine conflict as a reply.

RIDICULE any consideration of Russian claims that NATO has been steadily circling Russia ever-closer (despite the maps appearing to show this is what has been happening). Respond to the person making those claims

  • attacking them personally as “Putinistas” or “Putin whores” or as “Russian shils”
  • as pro-Russian imperialism
  • or post links to articles attacking Russia’s conduct in the Ukraine conflict as a reply.

ATTACK any reference to fascist forces such as the Azov by claiming

  • that they are just “nationalist” or
  • they have been broken up and spread through the rest of the forces (not to “infect” the rest, of course not)
  • accuse the commentators of being “Putinistas” or “Putin whores”
  • and pro-Russian imperialism or as “Russian shils”
  • or counter with reference to Russian use of the Wagner group
  • or post links to articles attacking Russia’s conduct in the Ukraine conflict as a reply.

JUSTIFY BANNING AND CENSORSHIP of journalists and media platforms

  • by saying they are “Russian shils”
  • or liars
  • “not real journalists”
  • or “because there’s a war on”

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