Media literacy in wartime: insights from the Ukrainian national project Filter

by Valeria Kovtun, Head of Filter, Ukraine.

In 2021, we launched Ukraine’s first national media literacy body – ‘Filter’. Filter aims to empower Ukrainians, giving them the tools to apply critical thinking when evaluating content. Further, we consolidate fragmented media literacy initiatives across Ukraine to amplify impact, as well as coordinate with international efforts to combat misinformation. 

In the year preceding the war, Filter managed to build a network of over 50 NGOs, news organisations and state institutions who work with media literacy around Ukraine. We launched a dozen initiatives across the country reaching millions of Ukrainians from diverse backgrounds. On February 23, representatives from five ministries, international organisations, and civil society gathered at one table to discuss the draft of the strategy for 5 years presented by Filter. 

9 hours later, Russia started its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

In the immediate aftermath of the invasion, the Filter team had to abandon carefully planned, long-term strategies in favour of an agile approach better suited to navigating the uncertainty of war. For example, as it became clear that Ukrainians needed the ability to distinguish between PsyOps and verified information, Filter quickly developed easy-to-follow instructions to recognise weaponised information and a suite of fact-checking tools.

Since February we have held over 120 express-lessons and lectures on wartime disinformation tactics and engaged with over 18 million Ukrainians through our social media. With the support of our pre-war network, we still managed to celebrate the Global Media Literacy Week in Ukraine and organised the country’s first national media literacy test. Working with TV United, local media, Embassies and activists, we achieved phenomenal results despite electricity outages stemming from Russia’s missile campaign. Within one day, the test was passed by over 17k people –  media literacy literally united Ukrainians worldwide. 

Working in wartime has kept our team occupied solving a constant stream of short-term problems, often depriving us of the possibility to proactively plan and look forward. However, even in wartime, Ukraine needs to plan its future and develop long-term policies. We clearly see the urgency in studying deeply the needs of displaced Ukrainians (people who fled the war zone might be struggling with mental issues and this should be taken into account when developing media literacy interventions for them); we need to reconsider approaches to media education in the times of the information war, not just in Ukraine but globally.

 A majority of respondents to a 2022 Pew Research Center Poll across 19 countries ranked misinformation second to only climate change in terms of global threats.  Building a safe information space by fostering resilience to misinformation in a democratic way remains a difficult task across the world. This is where we see the undeniable value of sharing expertise across countries. New war realities require more adaptability, cooperation, and creativity.  


Valeria Kovtun, Head of Filter, Ukraine