Regional media outlets are integral in highlighting the process of Ukraine’s European integration. Being embedded in communities, they enjoy more confidence among local populations than national media. They also face more difficulties in covering national issues like the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement or European integration. We talked to a number of media executives from different Ukrainian regions to learn what challenges they face in covering the EU and the Association Agreement and what they need to do it better.
Pavlo Pushchenko, chief editor of “Events and Comments” website (Chernihiv)
In the regions, people are relatively unfamiliar with the topic of the EU. They think of it as being very far away from them. The majority have a hard time imagining the direct results of the European integration. Of course, an ordinary citizen of Chernihiv has the general idea that Ukraine should be more “like Europe,” but most people do not understand how to do that.
The topic of European integration is more familiar to entrepreneurs focused on foreign trade. For this reason, many articles on the issue are dedicated to business. We write about the foreign economic relations of the region and the dynamics of foreign trade, particularly with regard to closing Russian markets. This is on the front burner.
We lack experts who could professionally comment on current developments. There are no local experts and we do not have personal contact with experts in Kyiv. In Chernihiv, the general level of competence of journalists and their understanding of European integration is quite low. This deficiency is especially noticeable in their analysis and during discussions. Reporting, when you need only to describe the event, differs significantly from analytical journalism, which is more difficult. In my point of view, there should be more analysis in the Ukrainian media.
Larysa Hnatchenko, editor-in-chief of the “Slobidskyi krai” newspaper (Kharkiv)
We are mainly interested in the business experience of exporting to the EU markets. Due to the geographic location of the Kharkiv oblast, we have very few examples of success in this area. But there are some businesses and we try to find them and write articles about them. At least we try to write about those entrepreneurs who agree to it, but most often businesspersons don’t want the publicity.
We also try to explain the possible impact of European integration and the Association Agreement on the lives of Ukrainians: product range, prices, and utilities for example. This is quite a difficult task because of our distance from the EU border and proximity to Russia. But we try to find people who previously lived in the Kharkiv region and moved to the EU to share their experience.
We are also interested in agriculture and agricultural practices in the EU, such as the perspectives of agricultural cooperatives. We try to keep in mind the peculiarities of our newspaper’s target audience, a half of which is made up of pensioners. That is why we principally write about European practices in the sphere of public utilities, pension legislation, and budget allocation.
Petro Parypa, editor-in-chief of the “Halychyna” newspaper (Ivano-Frankivsk)
Our newspaper constantly writes about EU-related topics. I have been personally involved in the subject for over 15 years. I wrote a lot about the experience of EU countries, and Poland in particular. But these issues are highlighted mainly by specific media outlets and journalists. Unfortunately, the government doesn’t have a systematic information policy on European integration that would include regional media. Another thing that complicates our work is that we often see imitating reforms instead of real implementation.
Basically, we need two things to be able to efficiently inform citizens about Ukraine’s association with the EU and its benefits: the relevant reforms, and government incentives for media to write about the topic. Poland devoted considerable resources to this. Our media lack financing. It would be useful to have some state financial support for highlighting European integration. This is also true from a moral point of view, because it would demonstrate the priority of the topic, particularly to journalists.