The Different Sides of Media Surrounding Ukraine and Russia

“It’s never going to be the same. My people are dying.” Diana Osaulenko of Kyiv, Ukraine, knows the damage done to her home can’t be undone.

The Office of the United Nations has confirmed that 596 Ukrainian deaths have been reported as of Mar. 12. However, the numbers have only been collected as soldiers, and fellow civilians bury their loved ones.

Bombing videos show the last few moments before innocent people’s lives were taken. From an elderly couple killed in their car as they tried to escape to the children’s hospital that was destroyed on Mar. 9. Diana can’t pull herself away as terrifying as they are to watch.

Nor will anyone give her a break. Each day she gets tons of messages and videos from family and friends with updates and prayers. The ugly but truthful side is that she receives hateful messages that blame Ukrainians for the restrictions —

“It’s sad that (some) Russians don’t want to believe.”

Diana shared that while she has family who lives in Russia and friends that she’s known for years, a disconnect has grown among those from Russia. Some she calls brainwashed who genuinely believe the words and information given by Putin-

“For 20 years, Putin translated only his channels.”

As the war began, media restrictions tightened in Russia. Twitter, TikTok, and Facebook were among the many platforms that have been banned or heavily monitored to prevent anyone “from publishing anything divergent from the official “party line” of Putin’s government.” as reported by The Nation on Mar 11.

Twitter and Facebook have banned various accounts that have been accused of being Pro-Putin. Some of these accounts belonged to RT (Russian state-controlled international television network) and Sputnik (Russian state media).

Facebook was temporarily allowing political expression for Ukrainians that would typically violate their rules on hate speech policies. These forms of expressions could only be centered around Russian leaders and soldiers, any mention of Russian civilians within a post would be removed,, and accounts could be penalized.

As of Mar. 14, Facebook had narrowed down what is acceptable to post. Their response comes after Russia opened a criminal case. Facebook stated they need to emphasize this was never to endanger the Russians as a whole but rather a means for Ukrainians to showcase the events of the war as it unfolds.

Not everyone in Russia is allowing the bans and censorship to stop them from spreading information about the war. Maya Volf is one of the producers for a popular YouTube channel based in Russia, Varlamov. The content creator has been working around the rules of censorship to continue their videos analyzing Russian politics.

Volf is currently in Amsterdam, with her husband, in turkey. She spoke with The Observers (news content platform) but disclosed she couldn’t give much information about her co-workers who are still in the country for safety reasons.

Volf explains in her interview that you can’t simply say “war,” this could get your video taken down or even the channel suspended. “Situation” is often used to describe the war.

Anyone can land a target on their back, “Even getting information and sharing it with others is dangerous for us and our families,” Volf explains. She points out there’s harm created through censorship in the work she produces, not everyone can read between the lines, but precautions are the only way her team can get any information out.

On Mar 3 the Russian State Duma Committee on State Construction and Legislation passed a law against spreading fake news throughout the country. This entails any information being spread that contradicts the information provided by the Russian government, especially on news about the Russian military. Citizens could face a 15-year prison sentence or a fine equivalent to $14,000.

“Don’t believe the propaganda. They’re lying to you here.” Marina Ovsyannikova, editor for Channel One (Russian Broadcast), burst onto the camera holding out her banner, “Stop the war. No to war.”

Ovsyannikova had run out in front of the news anchor pleading for Russian viewers not to listen to lies being broadcast. Ovsyannikova admitted on screen that she too had played a part in spreading misinformation on the war.

However, not everyone believes this was a legitimate act of protest. Russian news is known to be fabricated, especially now after the ban on “fake news” law, many viewers can’t see how this was an authentic moment.

“It’s fake,” Diana admitted when she initially saw posts surrounding Ovsyannikova. She believed it was an act of selfishness. Soon after, those thoughts changed. She is sure it was all orchestrated.

“It was 20 days of war, and she said nothing. It’s all fake.”

According to The Guardian, Ovsyannikova was detained and what could have been the 15-year sentence turned out to be a $300 fine. “The fact that she has already received a quick punishment indicates that a political decision was made not to persecute her further,” said Pavel Chikov, the head of Agora International Human Rights Group and lawyer, when asked about Ovsyannikova.

Chikov has been a human rights lawyer in Russia since 1999. Some of his work involves helping prosecute more than 250 government officials for human rights abuse, over 50 corrupt police officers, and 17 books on human rights and advocacy for victims.

“I cannot talk to my Russian friends right now” The amount of blame targeted toward Ukrainians for Russian athletes’ inability to participate in sports events, or any of the economic sanctions placed on Russia, are not something that Diana wants to focus on.

Diana’s thoughts are with home and loved ones, their safety, and the well-being of all Ukrainians, “I haven’t seen my family in five years. What if I never see them again?” Even though it’s nearly impossible to understand what the citizens of Ukraine are going through, Diana emphasizes their independence and strives to make sure they are being heard and that Ukrainians will not allow this war, or Putin, to defeat them.

“Don’t give up, Ukrainians.”

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