I am Oksana.
I have four kids.
And I have the war in my country.
I am here to tell you how we work, how we live, and how the journalists struggle in these terrible times.
The auditorium that previously had been filled with questions about bundling and data insights and the small talk of colleagues and new acquaintences during the INMA Media Subscriptions Summit in Stockholm went completely silent.
Nobody asked. But from “I am Oksana,” the weight of the war in her Ukrainian home was immediately felt and respected.
Oksana Brovko is CEO of the Association of the Regional Publishers of Ukraine, whose mission is to support the professional development and support of 42 independent regional media in the country, which have 9.5 million unique users and 950,000 print copies, as well as local magazines and radio stations.
Today, however, that mission has been simplified: “To help our media survive.”
Each of Brovko’s slides were topped with a red header that started with “Day 379.” Her first slide filled the room with a siren warning of an attack. She showed photos of journalists in camouflage, working without electricity, without wifi, in shelled rooms and bomb shelters.
“It is more difficult to be in occupied cities,” she said. “It’s impossible to work at all. All the media in the occupied areas are closed. You must relocate as soon as possible, together with your teams and your relatives. [Russians] use the Ukranian [media] brand names for their propaganda.
“Russians make a list of media persons, addresses of private blogs, and addresses of office buildings of our media, and they shell them all the time. The regional editorial offices of our colleagues were shelled just weeks ago. The private house of one of our editors, in an occupied city, her house was bombed and destroyed when she was inside with her family.”
Summit attendees took all this in, hearing her incomprehensible words and seeing the photos on her PowerPoint.
“The media market is in big trouble,” she said, shifting topics from a disaster of humanity to a disaster of democracy.
“The ad market destroyed. Incomes fell. Subscription revenue the same because the people migrated out of Ukraine, around seven million, and a lot of people migrated inside of Ukraine for different reasons, around six million. We had a catastrophe for paper with print for newspapers because before February 24 , we used to print on paper from Russia or Belorus. We try all the time to find a solution to manage by hand each day, each month.”
Having explained the personal and professional situation of Ukranian journalists, Brovko shared with the room full of media executives what they need right now: tech equipment, generators, cloud servers, Starlinks.
One new “beat” reporters, photographers, and videogarphers are covering: military funerals.
“It’s really difficult physically and psychologically,” she said. “This part of the job is really important, but at the same time, it’s really hard to visit such places, to write such stories. But we have to do that — to tell the people about the heroes who protect the country. My journalists and photographers working on that need a lot of recovery.
“In addition, news teams are covering topics like electricity, immigration rules, how to find clean water, how to behave in filtration centers, instructions on what to do if you lose someone close to you. We have a lot of survival stories like this, like how to cook food if you don’t have electricity in your apartment.”
Brovko has a dream to create a programme to allow Ukranian journalists to leave the country for five or six days “to breathe,” she said. “To change everything around them and to relax. To be more motivated and come back to the country and keep doing their job more motivated and more emotional. Without this kind of support, it’s quite difficult.”
The help of the media industry to its Ukranian media peers is more than money and resources, Brovko said. It lets media teams there know they are not alone.
“From the very first days, we started to receive financial support and tech support,” she said. “It was absolutely on time and important. And because of your help, all of our media who we support have a chance to relocate, to receive medical kits, to receive tech equipment, bulletproof vests, helmets, to keep doing their jobs.”
INMA has partnered with the Ukranian Media Fund to provide long-term strategic help with the goal of lifting up eight to 10 news media companies in Ukraine. But the situation is not stable enough there yet to start this programme.
“Ukrainian media today are being killed by Russians in war, and it’s quite important for our great nation to inspire people to struggle until they win,” Brovko said. “To inspire people to keep press freedom in Ukraine. We already have the independence. Help us protect that. We need weapons support from your countries. We need financial support for content product. And we need your financial support for media companies.”
She showed a video of a journalist who invented a charging machine using his bike to charge his mobile phone and notebook.
“Today, all of our media are like him. We keep doing our job even without electricity, sometimes without Internet.”
Thomas Mattsson, senior advisor at Bonnier News, told the packed room of news media executives how their company’s news content is a primary way to help right now.
“How many of us have a presence in Ukraine at all times?” he asked. “Very few in this room. There is a moral responsibility for the international media to use content from Ukraine and journalists that at least try to do something for them. I want to stress the need for us to support and help. We republish their pictures, their videos.”
The situation in Ukraine is still in the emergency phase, Mattsson said, urging those in the room to collect gear or funds and reach out to him to help distribute it within Ukraine.
Brovko ended by showing attendees a Ukranian flag that had been hidden by someone.
“People started to take out their most valued things, which were hidden from Russians during the occupation. This is the flag, the flag of Ukraine. It was hidden by the person into the ground to be in a safe space. This is about the values. Let’s share that. Struggle with us until it’s the victory.”
A prolonged standing ovation followed for Brovko, who somberly accepted it before leaving the stage.
For more information on how you can help, please visit the Ukranian Media Fund.