Knowledge, lack of preparation
The experiences of Greek journalists working in Ukraine are very different.
With reporting experience in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Christos Nikolaidis was an obvious choice for Greek television OPEN when it came to covering Ukraine. His employer provided him with protective gear and hardship pay, but others weren’t so lucky, Nikolaidis told BIRN.
“I saw Greek and foreign colleagues in Ukraine without any equipment, which is unacceptable,” he said, and called on unions to seek a new collective agreement with employers. “It all depends on how employers perceive the work you do.”
Likewise, SKAI TV journalist Stavros Ioannidis, who also previously covered the conflict, spoke with his editors and managers to plan his assignment in Ukraine.
“To organize a war expedition, you need knowledge,” he said. Referring to those who left without preparing the groundwork, Ioannidis told BIRN: “I wouldn’t leave like this. I will not go.
“This war is a good opportunity to mobilize everyone, the media, the unions and the journalists themselves to find a solution and send trained people to the war zones.
Vasilis, who like Andreas refused to be identified by his real name, was scathing about his own media’s approach to covering the conflict: “No serious assessment has been made of the people who have been selected to go to Ukraine; whether they know the area’s history, language, political scene, etc. The media sent them – at least in the first phase of the war – without guaranteeing the essentials.
BIRN contacted a number of Greek media outlets for comment, but only Star TV responded.
Elias Papanikolaou, editorial director of Star’s news desk, said security was paramount and the company made sure to support such missions.
“Our main concern was that our people were not in danger,” Papanikolaou told BIRN. “Thus, our reporting requirements were based solely on their security.”
“As for the criteria, we started from the base, wanting to go to war,” he said. The capability and intelligence to carry out the mission safely take priority, he added. “The CV on paper comes second.”
Another journalist who covered the war and spoke on condition of anonymity said he had no idea he would need a local fixer. “In theory, my administrators should have known this in advance,” he said. “People running the Greek media know little about how to prepare for a mission.”
Kostas Pliakos, who has worked in Nagorno-Karabakh and Libya and is a supervising producer at VICE Greece, said his former employers also failed to support him on the job.
“Everyone did their best based on their experience and access to information,” he said. “It’s the media’s job to supplement the work of correspondents and few do that,” he added, referring to the bureau’s role in providing additional reporting, background information and interpretation.
Karchilaki agreed, “Once a war correspondent is sent to a conflict zone, the medium must support them and be there for them 24/7. It is unthinkable not to do so.
Editors should be assigned to those on the ground, providing editorial support and sounding the alarm if correspondents disappear or appear to be overly stressed, she said.