Vika Biran, Project Manager, n-ost


Ms. Biran, your project addresses the responsibility of the media in the context of the persecution of queer people under National Socialism and in the present day: How do you go about (preventively) combating the dissemination of queer-hostile narratives in the media in your work?

Propaganda and violence against LGBTIQ+ people are on the rise, and the media plays a key role in the spread of homophobic and transphobic narratives. "History Unit: Reframing Queer Narratives in Media" addresses this responsibility in the context of the persecution of queer people under National Socialism, but also in today's political reality. Media create discourse: The way a topic is discussed in the media has a direct influence on how this topic is then viewed by society. Unfortunately, the persecution of homosexual and transsexual people under National Socialism has not been adequately addressed in the media in Eastern Europe. Many people are still unaware that this group of victims was murdered, persecuted and discriminated against in concentration camps, just like Jews, Sinti and Roma, Soviet prisoners of war and others. Unfortunately, queerphobic portrayals are still found in the media today. Until recently, the ruling conservative party in Poland did not consider it necessary to support the rights of LGBTQ+ people and women. There were even so-called "LGBT-free" zones - it's hard to believe that we're not talking about events from 80 years ago, but from just five years ago. Belarus is currently preparing a law on liability for so-called "LGBT propaganda" that is similar to Russian legislation. In Ukraine, all forces, including the media, have been involved in the fight against the Russian aggressor - after all, this is now the most important task. Alongside the lessons of the past, it is important to remember that media is created by people, including queer people, who have first-hand knowledge of the issues facing their community - and this resource should be utilized.


From June 9 to 16, you will be hosting a workshop in Kraków and Oświęcim for journalists and activists from Belarus, Poland, Germany and Ukraine: What's the aim of the workshop and what do you hope to achieve by working with the participants?

The aim of the project is to enrich the public discourse with historical perspectives and to persuade mainstream media to express clear condemnation of anti-queer rhetoric. History Unit brings together media professionals and activists with experience in content production for international workshops dealing with the persecution of queer people during National Socialism and in current contexts. With visits to former concentration camps, discussions with historians, historical eyewitnesses and grassroots activists, participants gain awareness and acquire knowledge for joint journalistic projects. Topics which sometimes find little space in traditional media, such as homophobia, transphobia and migrant queer history, are explored in a wide variety of formats. With involvement of both journalists and activists, History Unit aims to maintain professional standards and deepen knowledge of contemporary queer perspectives. The results are published in the media in the target countries and presented at public events.


What do you personally see as the biggest challenge for media professionals and activists in Poland, Belarus and Ukraine in tackling this issue?

As a journalist, I work with several (Belarusian) media outlets and know only too well how difficult it can be to convince an editorial team that the proposed topic is worth reporting on. As an activist, I know how difficult it can be to reach an agreement with media outlets that would like to cover a protest, an election or a war, but don't have enough resources to write about small, everyday acts of discrimination. Activists and journalists frequently have different expectations, and these expectations are not met. We hope to get more quality journalistic content relating to the persecution of queer people. To achieve this, we create time and space for the exchange of experiences between content producers in the four project countries. We also provide financial support for journalistic cooperation in small international teams.

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