iBrattleboro.com remains one of the longest-running citizen-powered news and information sites out there, and we continue to be contacted from people around the country and around the world who are interested in doing similar projects where they live. As I noted a week or so ago, we’ve recently answered questions for someone in a small town in Queensland, Australia, and have been interviewed by hyperlocal activists in the Ukraine.
You might be interested in the Ukrainian project. Yurii Antoshchuk, head of a community media foundation there, got in touch to ask us some questions for publication in Russian and English. We answered their questions, but also asked them about what they were doing there.
Their first project was in 2013, creating the country’s first social media channel, Ukraine Social Community, to broadcast live video over the Internet. This was in partnership with the Morion television company and the Institute of Creative Technologies.
This led to the creation of TV Union, and a weekly internet program called “Kherson Region Online” was launched. Featuring local athletes, priests, journalists, photographers, politicians, and others, the program allowed for online conversations with interesting people of the region. The program used YouTube, Google+, Twitter, and Facebook as well as the Foundation’s website to host a virtual discussion.
The political situation in the Ukraine was changing, though, their TV partner was subject to a “raider attack” (a hostile government takeover), and activities ceased.
Antoshchuk explains how redundant systems helped them through this: “Before there was a raider seizure of the TRC "Morion" during Euromaidan, we had built a stable system of online broadcasting. The system is designed so that if suddenly a "database server", which created the online broadcast, is disconnected or the Internet connection disappears, online broadcasting does not stop. This occurs because the broadcast system includes several online "database servers", which support it.”
He continues “And so, if the light or the Internet is lost at one "base", broadcast continues from another such "base" that is in another city or even in another country. These "bases" are not mobile, they are like heavy servers, and they are located on the premises. But there are mobile databasses, or as we call them, "streamers". It can be ordinary people with mobile phones or tablets, which are connected to the databases and produce online broadcast from the scene. More about this we tell at our training or in an open online course, which we launched a few years ago (http://kurs-smg.blogspot.com/, unfortunately, only in Russian).”
“During the raider attacks, the TRC "Morion" was disconnect from the Internet, but we continued to broadcast everything that happened. NGOs, journalists and human rights organization joined this broadcast. They were right at the time of raider attacks, and documented violations of human rights and prepared documentation (you can see example here http://kurs-smg.blogspot.com/2014/07/3.html)”
Why? “Creating systems that allow you quickly connect to a network human rights defenders, journalists and other activists, you can protect yourself from illegal actions. Or, at least quickly inform the media about what is happening.”
In early 2014, the Yanukovych parliament adopted the laws of January 16, known as the “dictatorship laws,” curbing free speech and protest.
Antoshchuk says “According to the law, Ukrainian public organizations were equated to foreign agents, and popular Ukrainian bloggers and public information web resources needed to register as media. These laws also restricted Internet freedom and infringed on the rights of ordinary citizens to express their views freely.” Nine of the ten laws were later repealed, but the Foundation did not rest.
“At this time, our Foundation has launched on media channel TV Union a new online program called "Society says," which was attended by community leaders and activists of the Kherson region. The aim of the program was to widespread the information about the activities of non-profit organizations among the population of the region, report the importance and necessity of their existence, as well as defending the right to free Internet and free speech for the purpose of democratic development of society.”
Training sessions were held to teach public figures, journalists, and bloggers how to use new technologies. Rapid response media teams of three members (a member of a public organization, a journalist or blogger, and a human rights activist) were created, they monitored polls during elections, and more online courses were developed.
After the Russian annexation of Crimea, the Foundation partnered with others in the region to work on the subject of counter-propaganda in cyberspace. People were trained to identify fakes, verify news, enhance personal security of data, and understand predictive behavior of masses. A special training online course “Counter-propaganda. Simply about the complicated” (www.kontrpropaganda.in.ua) was created.
In 2015, the first school of Hyperlocal Community Media Generation was completed. Twenty-five non-government organizations and activists from southern Ukraine were taught how to create, fulfill and promote their community media projects. An online course was also created.
I asked if he had any advice for people who might be afraid to speak out, or share information?
“In the case of Ukraine, during Euromaidan and the present war with Russia, often mailboxes, activists’ profiles on social networks and even NGO sites are hacked. We are often faced with. But there are also some special recommendations. For example, basic safety rules - a two-step authentication, strong passwords, access to the Internet through Tor-networks, etc.
“We believe that creating networks and communication, it is much easier to oppose illegal actions or those actions that infringe upon human rights. Fast communication and revitalization of communities leads to the fact that "dark forces" are retreating. : ) Tested on personal experience.”
The 2016 plan is to expand to all of Ukraine.
You can read the iBrattleboro interview here: