Emergency safety work for journalists in Ukraine

IMS’ work on the safety of journalists in Ukraine was set in motion as the full-scale invasion began, guided by the framework the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. The efforts include providing protective gear and facilitating dialogues between journalists on the ground and Big Tech

IMS’ current Ukraine programme began in 2020 as part of the New Democracy Fund with ambitions of strengthening civil society partnerships in Ukraine. However, the scope of the programme changed dramatically following Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022. As the war broke out, IMS’ focus turned to providing agile, broad and gender-sensitive responses to support the safety of local media.

Supporting physical safety and media survival

One initial focus area was to get safety equipment to journalists on the frontlines. This effort was challenged by the fact that very little equipment was available for purchase globally, that the equipment available was only in large sizes designed for men and that a lot of fake, plastic equipment was going around. IMS’ local partner, Institute of Mass Information (IMI), managed to gather an overview of needs among media, and IMS led the coordination with peer organisations in acquiring quality gas masks, helmets and vests for all genders and getting them to Poland. From there, IMI used its extensive network and local knowledge to distribute the equipment from the border to journalists.

Though the lack of available equipment (and one shipment that – despite great caution – turned out to be fake) caused some challenges, IMS managed within the first three months of the war to secure 425 pieces of equipment for local journalists.

Additionally, IMS has also supported six local media development organisations in providing emergency assistance to media workers; supported 16 individual journalists financially; and supported La Strada, a public human rights organisation, and Women in Media NGO in raising awareness among journalists about gender-based violence in the context of the war in Ukraine.

Countering harmful disinformation

Hostile digital disinformation can lead to safety-threatening situations for both journalists and the public. Under the Tech for Democracy initiative, the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and IMS have facilitated series of roundtables to promote dialogue on war and disinformation in Ukraine. The on-going dialogues are attended by Ukrainian government representatives, Ukrainian journalists and the broader Ukrainian civil society as well as representatives from Google, Meta, Microsoft and Twitter. The on-going initiative focuses on efficient and proportionate responses to disinformation and creating proactive solutions that support and amplify quality journalism and factchecking. Building on the experiences of Ukrainian media professionals as the war develops, the project aims to implement insights and solutions at regional and global levels.

A conducive environment

A new media hub has been opened by Lviv Media Forum with support from IMS. The Lviv Media Hub allows journalists to keep doing their work even as the war has brought myriad challenges. At the hub, journalists and media outlets who have been forced to relocate have access to desks, meeting rooms and even showers and beds; the building itself can easily be turned into a shelter if needed. Teams and individuals can have editorial meetings, network, share experiences and conduct safety and other training sessions. It is a safe space with shelters nearby and verification of all who enter the building. When winter arrives, the solid heating system will ensure that the temperature will be kept at an acceptable level.

The common denominators for all IMS’ safety efforts are the close collaboration with local partners and the gender-sensitive approach. The efforts to protect Ukrainian journalists continue, and IMS is constantly monitoring the situation and trying to make sure that the needs are covered as much as possible through existing funds as well as seeking new funding.


IMS’ safety work in Ukraine is supported by The Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (among others through New Democracy Fund), Danish “Sammen for Ukraine” telethon, Sjællandske Medier, Danish Union of Journalists (DJ Safety), UPLOAD and AIM.


Lessons learned from the emergency phase of the Ukraine full-scale invasion:

  • The best type of response to crisis is to prepare before it happens; having safety mechanisms in place will make for better responses when crisis hits.
  • It is challenging to respond to emergencies efficiently without a level of emergency and crisis preparedness between the local and global levels (international non-governmental organisations).
  • INGOs should work with local actors to coordinate local safety needs and update them regularly based on needs delivered/met.
  • INGOs should ensure quality assurance of procured safety equipment – with a particular focus on gender-related safety needs, e.g., smaller-sized personal protection equipment (PPE) often needed by women journalists.
  • Keeping local and global coordination lines open during a prolonged crisis is challenging.
  • Connecting the short-term emergency response with a longer-term development response is essential for an effective and sustainable response to the crisis.
  • Maintaining and developing trust and transparency between the local and global is essential to anchoring ownership of emergency and crisis management with local stakeholders.