In the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, IFAJ issued a statement in support of journalists and communicators, in keeping with our federation’s focus. A few weeks later, confirming our fears, several journalists were killed or wounded by Russian troops. We remain concerned that Russian policies against press freedom will inhibit the free flow of accurate information in both Russia and occupied or threatened areas of Ukraine.
Here is our statement from March 10. It is followed by a rebuttal by member Marc van der Sterren of The Netherlands.
Statement on Ukraine War by The International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ)
The International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ) is deeply concerned for the personal safety of our friends and colleagues in Ukraine, and all the journalists and communicators who are under threat of bodily harm and professional suppression in both Ukraine and Russia as a result of the current invasion.
Journalism is of utmost importance during conflict—not just for those in its midst, but for the entire world to understand what is happening. Just as important, the free and open flow of information is also vital to production and trade of food, feed, fiber and fuel. Because Ukraine is a major producer of food and livestock feed, as well as a leading export hub, suppression of the nation’s media and restriction of reporters’ movements and free expression can have destructive impacts on a global scale.
The spring planting season should begin soon in Ukraine. Farmers, advisors and traders need news, technical insights and economic information to avert additional humanitarian crises in the country—lack of access to food or even famine—as well as global shortages of agricultural products and inputs. IFAJ vigorously urges an immediate end to attacks on Ukraine’s population, including our colleagues in the media and communications fields, and a resumption of the free flow of news and information.
IFAJ’s poor statement about war
By Marc van der Sterren
The phrase that has become a cliché since the war in Ukraine reads: ‘In war, truth is the first casualty’. In fact, truth already died long before the war started. Last summer, during the online IFAJ-congress, the Finnish investigative journalist Jessikka Aro told us how the Russian trolling industry organises a reality that goes far beyond truth.
In a world without truth, people get killed. That’s what we see in Ukraine at this very moment. The IFAJ opposes against this situation with an official statement, published on March 10th. However, in this statement, the IFAJ chooses a rather neutral position, saying it’s deeply concerned for ‘all the journalists and communicators who are under threat of bodily harm and professional suppression in both Ukraine and Russia’.
What does the IFAJ mean by ‘professional suppression’? It’s a strange expression, pointing to the state driven suppression in Russia. Does the same thing happen in Ukraine? I don’t think so. Ukraine is actually the victim. Why does the IFAJ-statement say “in both Ukraine and Russia”?
When it comes to war and truth, it is clear that it was Poetin who violates al kinds of human rights, among which the freedom of the press. The statement of the IFAJ is too much reserved in this. In my opinion, it’s inappropriate to equate the way Russia threats it’s citizens with the way Ukraine is running the country.
For the IFAJ there is no reason whatsoever to stay in an neutral position. It’s Poetin who violated the truth in an extreme way before invading Ukraine in a comparable excessive way.
However, journalists in both countries are suffering. In Ukraine, journalists are in a war zone, in Russia, journalists can not do their work anymore. The IFAJ should be there for both of them.
It seems the IFAJ places itself in a position far, far away from the conflict, while their statement seems to concentrate on the flow of information on ‘production and trade of food, feed, fiber and fuel’.
If the IFAJ truly is deeply concerned about the situation in Ukraine, as mentioned in the statement, our federation should be less reserved about what’s really happening, and it should show some more courage in it’s statement.
Marc van der Sterren, member of the Free Press Committee of the IFAJ, wrote this on his own behalf