When IFAJ was first established in 1956, it was in a way a result of World War II. After the war people in Europe were starving. The politicians realized that to keep the peace, they had to develop the agriculture and increase food production. If people don’t have enough to eat, the political situation will be very unstable.
But to increase the food production farmers also needed education and relevant information. Therefore, a small group of agricultural journalists and communicators decided to build a network and support each other’s work. That was the start of something which later became the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ).
More and more countries and guilds were added and in the 1990’s our friends in Ukraine became members. During the following years, we have met them several times and followed their work. Today we feel great sympathy with them when they struggle for their lives in the barbaric and brutal war. The Russian soldiers bomb and destroy everything from cities to farms. It’s a gross abuse of another independent country, and we can do nothing but condemn the invasion.
Free and independent media are crucial during conflicts, both for them in the midst and for the rest of the world, to understand what is happening. But we also know that propaganda is part of the war, and it’s widely spread, especially in these days when social media gives anyone access to mass media.
Unfortunately, there are still a lot of other places where there is no freedom of the press and where journalists are suppressed, threatened, and even murdered. 46 journalists were killed in different parts of the world last year, and several journalists have already been killed during the Russian invasion in Ukraine—not to mention all civilians, even children, who get killed every day.
This is of course a horrific situation for our Ukrainian colleagues, and it feels hopeless for us as an organization not to be able to help beyond issuing statements like the one we drafted shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine. But I’m sure we can contribute as individuals, by, for example, sending some support to Reporters without Borders or other aid organizations and by writing about the war and its effects.
Words and information are important weapons.
Our Danish colleagues are working hard with our congress in June and July. I’m sure it will be a very interesting program, and they have even extended a special invitation to our Ukrainian friends, offering to cover expenses so they may join us for a peaceful and happy gathering. Let’s hope we will be able to welcome each other—and our Ukrainian friends—there.