“We do not want to be perceived only as victims”

4 February 2022. Interview with Olga Konsevych, 33, editor-in-chief of the Ukrainian newspaltform 24tv.ua about the situation in Ukraine, the conflict with Russia and her work as journalist.

24tv.ua is the news platform of the Ukrainian TV channel Channel 24. When did you join, who are your users, your target groups and how do you reach them?

OK: In 2019, I joined the 24 channel’s team. I am involved in the development of digital strategy and responsible for 24tv.ua website. Our team consists of 115 people who work mainly in Kyiv and Lviv (the western part of Ukraine). We are reaching an average of 35-40 million unique users per month (about 100 million page views for the 24tv.ua project). In my editorial office, I am responsible for the formats of explanatory journalism and solutions journalism. When the coronavirus crisis reached Ukraine we shifted our focus to covering COVID-19 related stories as well as using series of infographics, videos etc.

(two examples are to be found here: https://imi.org.ua/en/monitorings/compliance-with-professional-standards-in-online-media-the-1st-wave-of-monitoring-in-2021-i38434

How do you assess the current tense situation between Ukraine and Russia?

OK: Ukraine has been living in a state of hybrid war for 8 years. In fact, we constantly felt this tension, just now the threat has become even more disturbing. When you look at the number of Russian troops, Putin’s statements, disinformation, you understand that the issue is not the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, but an encroachment on democracy and Putin’s desire to revive the empire. Look at least at the pressure on the media, the opposition in Russia itself. If the state treats its citizens this way, then what can we expect? Russia’s actions are a challenge for all of Europe.
Some steps taken by Germany caused public censure. Reasons: Nord Stream 2, unwillingness to sell weapons, scandal with Vice Admiral Schönbach. And this makes it difficult to perceive all the good things that Germany has done for Ukraine – the rehabilitation of the Ukrainian military, assistance in reforms, sanctions against Russia.

Are Ukrainian journalists and independent media houses threatened through the conflict and the political situation?

OK: It is difficult to predict how the aggravation could turn out for journalists. My colleagues and I are definitely under stress, but we have been used to being on the alert since 2014. We have drawn up a special plan for the work of the editorial office in the event of an invasion. We think about safety, we make sure that photographers and correspondents have vests with the “press” badge and helmets. If we touch on the informational aspect, it has become more difficult to write news – we see a lot of disinformation campaigns, there are more fakes. For example, recently Russian state-run media broke the news that the US television channel CNN called Kharkiv (a city in eastern Ukraine, close to the border) a Russian city on air. The headline on RIA Novosti reads: “CNN ‘recognized’ Kharkiv as part of Russia.” At the same time, only Kremlin propagandists have screenshots made in Photoshop; there was no such information on the air or in social networks.
I’m most worried about my family, I hope I don’t have to think about where to send them in case of war. I myself consider it my duty to work, and I am not going to leave Ukraine.

What do you expect from Europe?

OK: I can see the support and desire to keep the balance in the world. If the EU puts aside its internal disputes and unites for the sake of security in Europe, this will be the best gift for Ukraine. I also hope that not only European leaders but also citizens of the EU countries will gradually learn more about Ukraine – that it is a country that supports European values, that we are one of the IT technology leaders. Reface, Grammarly, Revoult, Preply, and Petcube – many users around the world are familiar with apps and use them daily, not knowing that the products originated in Ukraine.
We want to be perceived as equals, not just as victims of Russia. We have many talented people, creative ideas, and a desire to live in peace. Furthermore, we just want to develop and use the possibilities of progress, and not think about war. Russia is dragging the whole of Europe into the past, so the conflict is also civilizational.

What was the most impressive experience for you in the last months (positive and negative)?

OK: The most positive emotion is communication with colleagues in Lithuania. I was at the opening of the European Capital of Culture 2022 in the small city of Kaunas and was surprised by the interest in Ukraine.
I do not want to remember anything from negative events. We already live in the midst of negative news.

The questions were asked by Lorenzo Canu.

Olga Konsevych earned a Doctorate Degree in Communication Studies from Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv in 2017, with a special focus on Ukraine-EU relations, democratic transitions and sustainability of post-Soviet societies. In 2020, she started research on COVID-19 challenges for Roma community in Ukraine and NGOs response.
Since 2019 Olga is a part of the German Marshall Fund of the United States and its innovative transatlantic network of young civil society leaders (TILN). In 2021, she became the first Ukrainian woman to join VVEngage cohort of Vital Voices Global Partnership. She is also a M100 alumna and has participated at the M100 Young European Journalists Workshop in 2014 and 2015.