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Defining Measures to improve and support the work of Public Information in the Chernobyl affected regions (I)

Defining Measures to improve and support the work of Public Information in the Chernobyl affected regions (I)


1) Background The Tacis 1993 Regional Programme was adopted by the Tacis Committee in October 1993. The content of the Chernobyl Regional Programme was developed during programming missions to Belarus, Russia and Ukraine from March to June 1994.
2) Objectives
The overall objective of the Tacis 1993 Regional Programme for support to Chernobyl affected regions may be summarized as facilitating the resumption of normal social and economic activities in the affected regions through the provision of Technical Assistance to beneficiaries from governmental organizations associated with health, the environment and agriculture, as well as State Committees/Ministries with particular post accident responsibilities.
The specific objectives of this project are:

  • To evaluate how information (especially that concerned with the health and welfare of the population and with environmental conditions) is currently disseminated, in particular among those continuing to live in regions directly affected by the Chernobyl accident.
  • To identify how the existing arrangements for information dissemination could be effectively improved to help both the affected and the wider population to better understand and cope with the nature and magnitude of the potential risks of living in contaminated areas; particular attention should be given to how, through their own actions and choices (e.g., lifestyle, diet, etc.), individuals can control and reduce these risks.
  • To formulate a coherent and integrated plan for Technical Assistance capable of achieving major improvements in information dissemination in the affected regions of the respective countries; this plan would form the basis for the Terms of Reference for the second stage of this project, i.e., the implementation stage.

3) Project Results-Achievements
The Chernobyl accident took place on 26 April 1986; 1996 marks its tenth anniversary. The project report was not set out to provide an historical overview of events, but given the uniqueness of the Chernobyl case, it was important to review the decade from the standpoint of communication strategy to establish a rationale for future public information initiatives.
The final project report is in two parts, the first of which assesses how information was released to the public at the time of, and following the accident. The second part builds on its conclusions to formulate recommendations for a new information strategy.
Both parts are based on the findings of national expert teams, in the three affected countries, created specifically to assist with the project.
The Chernobyl disaster poses special problems in the field of public information, because of widespread awareness of the accident, its symbolic importance to the nuclear debate, the lack of credibility attributed to information sources because of their original response to the emergency, and a need to react to unusual anxieties and audience pressures. The report is constructed on the premise that media and information campaigns and strategies are not free standing; they are part of an overall process of diffusion, involving many actors and interlocutors, and need to be customized to suit each individual case.
The decade under review spans an historical process which goes well beyond Chernobyl, reflecting radical changes in the political and social structures of the countries affected. When the disaster occurred, the Soviet Union was still in existence, and habits of secrecy were well entrenched; the same tradition persisted through the biennium immediately following, with information released only tardily, sparsely and often incompletely. From 1989, however, the situation changed, and this was marked, in relation to Chernobyl, by the publication for the first time of contamination maps.
The evolution of the international Chernobyl project, the first UN mission to the affected territories, the world appeal made through the UN General Assembly all coincided, in the years between 1989 and 1991, with the disintegration of the Soviet Union and a prodigious increase in the transparency and availability of information. While international political structures were changing, and the influence of the former Soviet Union diminishing, opportunities for communication and public information were opening up in an unprecedented way.
This historical cycle produced quite distinct changes in the pattern and volume of information flow. In the first period, immediately after the accident, there was a total lack of information in circulation, as the result of a virtual blackout.
In the second period, coinciding with the breakdown of the Soviet Union, a good deal of scientific information was made available and appeared in the press, but was generally unintelligible to the public. In the years between 1991-1993 there was a good deal of sensational journalistic coverage, much of it uncritical and often inaccurate, as a supposed concession to public taste. By 1994 this had subsided into public indifference, in part the result of audience fatigue, which was only relieved intermittently by special occasions such as the tenth anniversary of the disaster.
The overall impression reached by the reporters in the three affected countries was that public information over the past ten years has been irregular, frequently controversial and chaotic.
It has been unconsidered and lacking in system has produced a certain stress among the people and has traumatized public mentality. It has also led to a decline in confidence in public information media, as well as in official channels and authority, lending an exaggerated status to the rumour mill.
In the light of these conclusions, a new information strategy, configured to help redress this situation, should respond to some objectives collected in the final project report (confirmed in a consultation of national teams held in Dusseldorf in September 1996). The objectives are summarised in the following. In particular, it was suggested to develop new public information techniques or adapt existing Western techniques to the general conditions in the affected countries, and to develop a unified program for public information in the affected areas. The program should take into account age requirements and be oriented towards the different education levels of information users. It was advised that the programme should reflect the following:

  • Health education aimed at complying with sanitary and hygienic norms of the population living in the contaminated areas;
  • Provision of timely public information on proposed amendments and alterations in Chernobyl laws;
  • Construction of the "victim" image, in order to foster an active attitude to life, in the population;
  • Orientation away from negative aspects of the events towards positive examples of overcoming. With this in view it would be importan.
  • Monitoring the state of public information (supported by confidence rating of various information)
  • Expanding the coverage sphere of the Kiev and Zhitomir centres and Chernigov information service
  • Improving the training of information suppliers, to familiarize them with the expertise accumulated
  • Producing information materials for schools, clubs, libraries, socio-psychological rehabilitation regional and local, rather than national levels, that should involve the Chernobyl centres as major actors (some of these are primarily concerned with information in each country, others with psychological rehabilitation).

Moreover, a national centre (or Ministry, in the case of the Ukraine) should be given special responsibility for collecting, processing and distributing information. While the majority of activities should be addressed to various target audiences in the Chernobyl affected communities, some efforts should also be made to motivate journalists, decision-makers and potential investors, whose interest and influence is needed for the communities to redevelop.

General Information

Defining Measures to improve and support the work of Public Information in the Chernobyl affected regions (I)
€ 78.255,00
Budget year: 
Meta geographical zone: 
WDS - Waste, Decommissioning and Safeguards
Duration (months): 
Contracting authority: 
European Commission
CPBF (European Institute for the Media)
CRIS number: 
Old reference: 
Project reference: 
CHE 93/II.5
Decision number: 
Method of procurement: 
Direct Agreement
Signature date: 
Effective contract date: 
Contract end date: 
Closure date: