Kyiv Bureau, 2014 winner
RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service (Radio Svoboda) provided instant breaking news and in-depth analysis of the crisis in Ukraine, which erupted in late November 2013 after President Viktor Yanukovych unexpectedly backed away from a landmark agreement with the EU. As a result of that decision and unprecedented levels of police violence against demonstrators, the initially peaceful protests in Ukraine grew in size and became violent. Radio Svoboda’s Kyiv Bureau was at the forefront of that coverage, providing live-blogged coverage and dramatic video from the epicenter of violence, in-depth analysis, eyewitness stories, and reactions from different sides, including pro-governmental supporters.
As initial protests began to take shape, Radio Svoboda made the swift decision to broadcast directly from the streets of Kyiv with live video streaming of the demonstrations. Between November 24 and December 10, the Service’s live video stream was viewed more than 24 million times via LiveU. Since the early days of the crisis, Radio Svoboda maintained this live video stream and continued its comprehensive coverage of the events surrounding Euromaidan in spite of a violent riot police crackdown on November 30.
In the face of growing tensions and uncertainty, the Kyiv Bureau team remained stalwart in its efforts to present as accurate a picture of events on the ground as was possible. On December 8, while police were claiming only 60,000 demonstrators gathered on Maidan Square, Kyiv Bureau VJ Andriy Dubchak’s shot stunning panoramic video of the “March of Millions” from atop the Euromaidan Christmas tree, showing the true scale of the massive anti-government protest assembled there. Major media including CNN, ABC’s “World News Tonight,” Sky News, Buzzfeed, The Washington Post and the New York Times all cited and linked to RFE/RL’s coverage of this event.
Kyiv Bureau journalists were on the scene as the confrontation escalated on January 19, when the Ukrainian pro-EU protests became a full-scale riot against the government. In the center of Kyiv, on Hrushevsky Street near government headquarters, police threw tear gas and flash grenades at protesters who responded with paving stones and Molotov cocktails. And because of their dedication and bravery, audiences could accurately witness the struggle between the protesters and Ukraine’s riot police. In videos published on the Service’s website, viewers could follow every detail of the conflict as seen through the lenses of Kyiv Bureau reporters.
This coverage came with a price. Radio Svoboda correspondent Dmytro Barkar and cameraman Ihor Iskhakov were severely beaten by members of the elite Berkut police force, and some of their equipment was destroyed by a flash grenade. According to a local media watchdog, more than 100 journalists were injured during the protests, some of whom suffered head injuries. Numerous reports allege that riot police targeted mass media representatives attempting to report on the protests.
Radio Svoboda’s team worked around the clock, using multiple media platforms to inform and engage audiences, including live streaming, live blogging, newsmaker interviews, analytical roundtables, videos, photo galleries, and posts on social networks. Many of these materials were used and cited by an unprecedented number of Ukrainian and international media as well as by other RFE/RL language services.
The ongoing coverage of the evolving crisis drew a record number of visits to Radio Svoboda’s website, with over 7 million visits in December 2013 and over 9 million in January 2014. Radio Svoboda’s Twitter audience grew from 10,000 in November 2013 to over 50,000 in January 2014. Also, as part of its coverage, Radio Svoboda prepared a list of the dead, missing and detained that was shared more than 800 times on Twitter and nearly 10,000 thousand times on Facebook.
While some Radio Svoboda’s journalists in Kyiv clearly risked their lives in covering the protests, the Ukrainian Service’s Kyiv-based staff worked with true dedication, guided by RFE/RL’s mission. The entire team justly earned RFE/RL colleagues’ admiration for their courage and professionalism.