Ukrainian journalists to write more about MDGs and poverty

Nov 18, 2013

In modern society, the media is the chief purveyor of information and opinion about public affairs. It is hard to overestimate the role of journalists when it comes to agenda setting and shaping public opinions.

In a democratic society, access to information and professional journalism play a central role in creating a system of checks and balances, and in distributing power equally between governments, businesses, individuals, and other social entities. Access to verifiable information gathered by independent media sources, which adhere to journalistic standards, can also be of tremendous service to ordinary citizens, by empowering them with the tools they need in order to participate in the political process.

Ukrainian media has yet to overcome a number of challenges and growing pains. Fair or not, it is often accused of being extremely sensational, superficial, and mostly interested in politics, crime and vanity. This situation is is of particular concern  in the regions where journalists often do not have access to policy briefings by leading experts and news-makers and sometimes lack the professional skills to work with data and sources.

“We came to the conclusion that very often journalists avoid writing about complex issues simply because they don’t know where to get the data, how to make sense of it, and how to explain the situation in simple terms,” said Olexiy Pogorelov, the President of the Association of Printed Press of Ukraine.

The Association and UNDP decided to join forces to bridge these gaps. To this end the UNDP project “Acceleration of the Millennium Development Progress in Ukraine” and the Association have organized a series of hands-on workshops on MDGs and the Post-2015 Development Agenda aimed at raising Ukrainian journalists’ awareness of the important social issues faced by Ukraine. Leading Ukrainian experts from the Institute of Demography and Social Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and the President’s National Institute of Strategic Studies, who served as trainers, explained the issues and key drivers of multidimensional poverty, social exclusion and inequality, and engaged the journalists in discussion.

What is multidimensional poverty? Why is poverty a human rights violation? How is situation with poverty in Ukraine compared with other countries? Is GDP level the best benchmark to gauge human development? What is UNDP doing to tackle poverty and advance human development in Ukraine?

These are just a few issues covered at the workshop. Journalists representing leading media outlets from all over Ukraine learned how to find and analyze the data, trace emerging trends, and translate heavy statistical information and analysis into an interesting story that their readers would understand and relate to.

“Poverty reduction is the key task for years to come. Very low income and the exclusion of many people, families and social groups from vital services undermine the social cohesion and harmonious socio-economic and humanitarian development of the country,” - emphasized Olena Kochemirovska of the President’s Institute of Strategic Studies.

“Social development based on the principles of equality and justice is the foundation for national security and the well-being of the people. It is the basis for social agreement on the goals and priorities for development in all other areas,” - said Liudmyla Cherenko, Head of the Division of Studies of Population Living Standards of the Institute for Demography and Social Studies.

“Our experts need to engage more actively in a dialogue with journalists. We need to close the gap between the pundits who have the information and the reporters who have the means and skills to share it widely. The research and analytical reports we produce have tremendous value not only to the peer expert community and policy makers; the information is relevant for everyone and journalists can play a very important role in translating it into language that eveyone understands, thus keeping the public informed,” – underlined Yevgeniy Zelenko, UNDP Ukraine Communications Officer.

The participants thanked the organizers and expressed their interest in similar workshops in the future.

"It was very interesting to hear about finding sources and information for the articles. To my mind, it is very important for journalists to write about the issues of poverty, the aging population, living conditions of the elderly, and young people leaving Ukraine. If equipped with data journalists can and should shape the agenda and inform the public so that everyone can make an educated choice,” – commented Lyudmyka Shpak, the editor of the regional paper, Kremenchuk Telegraph.

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