“Russian spring” did not only ruin the usual routine of the Donbas residents. The events which happened two years ago changed the mindset of many people and for some of them they became the turning point and the beginning of a new, alternative spring — a “Ukrainian” one. It resulted in forming of the Donbas civil society. Its beginning was precipitant and it does not slow down today — new initiartives appear and develop in the region, the ones that had existed before stabilize. Ketaryna Mala, Chairperson of the Board of Directors of “Donetsk Institute of Information” told us about her vision of the development of civil society in the Donbas, about its prospects and the role of mass media in the process. “DII” if the “News of Donbas” editor.
What signs of the maturity of civil society can you name?
It is important that people should not expect any financial reward for their activity. This is one of the most important signs of maturity. This is not something a person does to earn money, this is something that is done to make your life and lives of other people more comfortable, more transparent and to give them more prospects. This is, from my point of view, one of the most important criterion, and the number of people involved play quite an important role here.
Directions should be different as well. I am very happy to see, for example, cultural initiatives. The aesthetic component is very important for building healthy civil society. A lot of things begin with aesthetics. In my opinion, one of the biggest reasons for the conflict outbreak is the way the space is seen aesthetically. In other words, Donetsk and Luhansk are just ugly. It is dificult to argue with this or to deny this. The only thing that can be done is to destroy everything and then to rebuild it. All initiatives that are connected with art, with attempts to use creativity to reshape the space around us are important. Of course, not all people can read thick books about what is happening now in the country and to make conclusions. However, this is really necessary for all of us. Not all people are as politically engaged as we are and are ready to spend their time trying to understand what is really going on. Art if the means which helps such people get the answers to important questions. Our art has been trying to give such answers and even to provide the audience with some insights into the future. I am happy to see this as this is a sign of recovery and this indicates that we will survive.
It would be impossible to promote art without support from media. This is true for the Donbas as well. Do mass media and civil society cooperate closely enough?
For the majority of cenral media, civil initiatives that come fom the East are ridiculous and boring. We have already said that the problem of the war, separatism and splitting of the society originate from the fact that different parts of our country failed to find a common language. Kyiv, in its turn, failed to find a common language with other regions of the big country. Instead of any attempt of the society to change the situation and to establish a dialogue both horizontally and vertically, everything remained the same. Kyiv snobbery prevents a lot of journalists, editors and mass media owners from listening to the voices which comes from behind Kyiv bypass road.
Still, civil initiatives which come from the east of Ukraine, are supported by thier own mass media, here I mean the projects which are fulfilled by “Donetsk Institute of Information”. In your opinion, is it possible to break the information cutrain with the help of mass media, local mass media, in particular? Can we, as MM, influence our audience, make it more active and thus fulfil our function which is building civil society?
I think we are going though extremely tough time now, though, there are positive moments. Impossible is nothing in our country now. It is absolutely great that mass media of “Donetsk Institute of Information” became known and influential. These MM differ from the ones the biggest part of the audience is used to. This means a lot of responsibility which is very important. When yo write something you should understand the purpose of your activity, the result you want to get and the possible feedback. A journalist has to get used to ethical dilemmas. This is somethng everyone of us will have to live with and all of us will have to make such decisions every day. Of course, we have a special mission which is to show all people of our country and, if it is possible, of other countries as well, that nothing is destined and the Donbas is not the territory of evil. Reintegration is possible but not with the help of the efforts of one or two tycoons. It is possible with the help of the efforts of the civil society we are a part of. It is really good that there are such initiatives and such people. It is wonderful that there are so many of them. This means, we still have a chance.
Interview conducted by Natalia Kazyonnova
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