German media are recruiting Ukrainian journalists

Ukrainian journalist Roxana Banachchuk, who fled Odessa, works at her computer, on March 29, 2022 in Greifswald, Germany (John MACDOUGALL / AFP)

Ukrainian journalist Roxana Banashchuk, a refugee in Germany, did not leave the field of media. From the Baltic coast, she continues to “tell the truth” about her country.

“The situation is difficult in Ukraine, but everyone is doing what they can: Soldiers are fighting, volunteers are distributing food and ammunition,” the 39-year-old professional told AFP.

Continuing to work is his way of bringing a stone into the building and “showing what’s going on” more than a thousand kilometers from his German exile.

Thanks to the financial and logistical support of a German publication, Catapult, which specializes in social sciences, it has coordinated a team of young Ukrainian writers who are on the ground in a country at war or refugees like her.

Several German media initiatives have emerged since the outbreak of the Russian offensive on February 24.

The RTL TV channel presents a daily Ukrainian-language program targeting the more than 300,000 refugees who have arrived in Germany, hosted by one of the stars of Ukrainian TV, Karolina Achion, now based in Cologne.

In Greifswald, in this windswept northeastern Germany, a building under renovation houses the Catapult editorial staff.

A group of workers circulates in the din of rehearsals while Roxana Banashchuk and her small team proofread and translate articles into Ukrainian and Russian sent from Kyiv, Kharkiv or Lviv.

“We want to fight false information by presenting facts on the ground with reliable sources,” explains the journalist, originally from Odessa, who now lives in a hotel near the editorial office.

wage donation

Since the beginning of this war, Catapult, which has so far had 50 employees, has employed about twenty Ukrainian journalists.

“We thought first of all opening our doors to them, giving them space, computers, cameras, cell phones,” explains Benjamin Friedrich, who runs Katapult and publishes a 150-page journal every quarter that aims to make more accessible, in the form of maps and graphs for science disciplines. Social.

A photo of the destruction in Kyiv posted to Twitter by Ukrainian journalist Roxana Banachchuk, March 29, 2022 in Greifswald, Germany.
A photo of the destruction in Kyiv posted to Twitter by Ukrainian journalist Roxana Banachchuk, on March 29, 2022 in Greifswald, Germany (John MACDOUGALL/AFP)

Quickly, “we realized that they (…) did not flee from Ukraine, so we told ourselves that we should recruit them there.”

But how do you finance such a wave of hiring in an editorial office that does not trade in gold?

The idea arose: everyone gives up part of their salaries to fund the salaries of their Ukrainian colleagues. Some opposed it vigorously and the editorial staff swayed.

Finally, “Twenty people agreed to play the game, some gave up 25% of their salary, and some gave up 50%,” asserts Mr. Friedrich who specifies that each employee receives 3,300 euros per month. In the meantime, Katapult has gained many subscribers for its Ukraine edition and has raised around €200,000 in donations.

In Berlin, the daily Tagesspiegel also decided to open its doors to fleeing Ukrainian and Russian journalists by giving them work space and a monthly stipend.

For Catapult, the main challenge is ensuring the reliability of these new hires.

crazy stories

We must be especially wary of “senseless heroic stories,” as Benjamin Friedrich elaborates, because “when war breaks out, propaganda appears from all sides.”

A photo of the destruction in Kyiv posted to Twitter by Ukrainian journalist Roxana Banachchuk, March 29, 2022 in Greifswald, Germany.
A photo of the destruction in Kyiv posted to Twitter by Ukrainian journalist Roxana Banachchuk, on March 29, 2022 in Greifswald, Germany (John MACDOUGALL/AFP)

“The Ukrainians did it in a smart way, spreading a lot of stories on social networks,” said the editor-in-chief.

Roxana Banashchuk draws on 15 years of experience as a freelance journalist in Ukraine. “I can immediately tell if the story is Russian propaganda,” she insists. She also notes that “some journalists let their emotions go too far”. “I have to correct paragraphs of their texts like: ‘All Russians are our enemies’.”

Ukraine’s Katapult also wants to narrate the daily life of a country at war. “Very ordinary things suddenly became very interesting” with the conflict, according to Mr. Friedrich.

On the ground floor, the next Katapult project has already begun. Mattresses stacked on fresh linoleum await amidst the lunch boxes. About fifty Ukrainian refugees will be accommodated here soon.

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