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Travel Grants Offer Brief Reprieve from War for Ukraine Media

Rescued people, journalists and police officers take cover as an air-raid siren sounds during a Russian drone strike, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Oct. 17, 2022.
Rescued people, journalists and police officers take cover as an air-raid siren sounds during a Russian drone strike, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Oct. 17, 2022.

With Russia’s war in Ukraine in its sixteenth month, the conflict is exacting an emotional and physical toll on the local journalists covering it.

More than a dozen journalists have been killed while on assignment since the full invasion began in February 2022. The latest victim: Victoria Amelina.

The award-winning writer who had switched to documenting war crimes, died from her injuries a week after a Russian missile strike in the city of Kramatorsk hit a restaurant that was a popular gathering place for journalists and aid workers.

Early in the conflict, media organizations set up centers offering hostile environment training and safety equipment. But many are now offering ways to try to grant temporary relief to reporters who woke to find themselves in a war zone.

Preparing for War: Media Groups Provide Gear, Training for Reporters in Ukraine
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The International Press Institute or IPI in Vienna last month announced a program to offer grants to help Ukrainian reporters travel temporarily to other parts of Europe to work on projects or gain new skills.

The idea, says IPI deputy director Scott Griffen is, “to give journalists a break, but also give them a chance to develop stories or participate in international forums.”

“We hope it will be just one additional contribution to our efforts to support independent media in Ukraine as they continue to do their incredible work under extremely difficult circumstances,” Griffen told VOA.

Studies show that continued exposure to traumatic events through covering conflict or violence can take a toll on the mental and physical health of journalists.

Newsrooms are seeing a move toward more trauma support for staff, said Hannah Storm.

The media specialist is founder and director of the Headlines Network, an organization that provides newsroom support and training.

“I think it's important to acknowledge that mental health and mental safety and wellbeing is the other side of the coin from physical safety and physical health,” Storm told VOA. “We can't have one without the other.”

But the exchange goes both ways, according to Leif Lonsmann, a board member of the Nordic Journalism Center.

The nonprofit offers training for journalists from the Baltics and Nordic regions and for exiled Russian reporters.

Lonsmann told VOA that while such programs offer a refresher in journalistic skills and a retreat for Ukrainian reporters, they also allow media elsewhere in Europe to learn from reporters who have been on the front lines.

“The mutuality seen from our point of view is that it's a gift to any journalist and any media house,” the senior media adviser added.

A visit from a Ukrainian journalist, “adds to the reporting with eyewitness reports and sources as seen from inside,” he said. “It's like a mutually beneficial solution.”

Griffen said that since the IPI started offering its grants two weeks ago, it has received more than 2,000 applications.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.