What Shapes the Narratives on Internally Displaced People in Dnipro Media?

This is a preprint extract from Ukraine’s Outpost: Dnipropetrovsk and the Russian-Ukrainian War, edited by Taras Kuzio, Sergei I. Zhuk And Paul D’Anieri. A free version of the book is available from E-International Relations

Long thought of as unthinkable in Ukraine, the issue of IDPs suddenly appeared on the agenda during the 2014 crisis. Scholarly literature and the media firstly looked on their lives and problems through the lens of temporariness. However, when displacement lasts longer than five years, it is worth looking deeper into this issue through the perspective of protracted displacement, not only through issues of survival and coping strategies, but considering the refusal to return and (forced or conscious) integration with a view to a long-term coexistence in their new environment. Although like Georgia (Brun, 2016), which suffered from two internal wars in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Ukrainian society strives to maintain people with their IDP status because their existence and possible return to the Donbas symbolizes the hope of regaining control over occupied territories.

‘The problem of internal displacement in Ukraine cannot be explained in pure numbers’ and ‘should not be understood in terms of a simplistic model of positive-negative attitudes towards the IDPs in host communities’ (Ivashchenko-Stadnik 2017, 42). This is a much more complicated and confusing problem. Although most displaced people are of the same ethnicity and religion as the host society, at the same time, some IDPs and media represent them as a specific, different group of ‘Donbas people’ who have their own ‘Donetsk character’, ‘Donbas spirit’ and even dialect. Moreover, IDPs from Donbas are not homogeneous, but a rather diverse group demographically, economically, and in their geopolitical attitudes.

Media play an essential role in the construction and reproduction of the refugees’ (as well IDPs) narratives (Kwansah-Aidoo and Mapedzahama 2015), and shape attitudes and responsibilities towards IDPs (Šarić 2019). Using frames with a set of framing devices (metaphors, catchphrases, visual images, lexical choices, selection of sources, graphics, stereotypes, and dramatic character) (Van Gorp 2005), mass media select some aspects of IDPs’ issues and make them more salient (Entman 1993). These IDPs’ media representations are not consensual, but rather contested and not mutually independent, sharing a common hostility and hospitality themes (Leudar, Hayes, Nekvapil, and Turner Baker 2008). Several studies have proven the feasibility of using the concept of frames to analyse the representation of forced migrants’ issues. While using the concept of agenda-setting one could answer the question of what is represented in the media about IDPs by the framing concept going beyond answering this question which may shed light on audience perceptions of a certain group (Kwansah-Aidoo 2005; Kwansah-Aidoo and Mapedzahama 2015; Pan and Kosicki 1993). This leads us to discuss the representation of IDPs in Dnipro media through the lens of frames.

Internal displacement is directed mainly to urban areas where there is a so-called ‘flight to the cities’ of ‘crisis migrants’ (Fagen 2014). This trend actualises the problem of rethinking urban policy and its revision in terms of considering the new urban actor. At the same time, it significantly complicates the profiling of IDPs because they are not readily identifiable in new urban settings (Davies and Jacobsen 2010). The actual number of IDPs in urban areas is extremely difficult to ascertain (Guterres 2010), making it difficult to understand their problems beyond those circulating in the media, such as housing, employment, and state support.

While national media receive a bigger audience, local media gain more weight during crises when communities feel their daily life is affected by the decisions of local authorities. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic illustrates this trend where communities want to know local developments and therefore tend to consume local media (Media Development Foundation 2020). Moreover, national media are less interested in portraying the lived experiences of the displaced (Rimpiläinen 2020). The IDPs’ crisis affected certain regions more than others, including Dnipro, where local media covered IDP issues more actively.

Local television channels and online media are the most trusted types of regional media (41 per cent and 44 per cent respectively), while local printed media are only trusted by 20 per cent of respondents. Every third Ukrainian watches regional television news. Participants of focus-groups conducted in 2019 found regional and national media to be equally important (USAID 2019). Thus, our chapter seeks to define the narratives in reporting on IDPs by local television channels in Dnipro and identify the media frames which are used for selecting and emphasising issues faced by IDPs.

IDPs in Dnipro

More than 45 per cent of all IDPs in Dnipropetrovsk oblastare concentrated in the city of Dnipro — 32.5 thousand (as of early 2020). Compared to residents, their share is insignificant at 33 IDPs per 1,000 inhabitants. Almost a third of IDPs in Dnipro (32 per cent) are retirees and another 17 per cent are children.

There are two places of collective residence of IDPs in the city which include a ‘transit town’ (fully inhabited) and a reconstructed building of the Regional Dermatological and Venereological Dispensary (less than half inhabited) with a total capacity of over 400 places. Three more reconstructed buildings were previously planned for IDPs accommodation, but there was no demand for them.

Slightly more than 1 per cent of all IDPs live in collective centres (362 inhabitants, 30 per cent of these are children). That is, almost 99 per cent of the IDPs are scattered throughout the city of Dnipro. Their distribution roughly corresponds to the distribution of the overall population of the city, according to the Ministry for Reintegration of the Temporary Occupied Territories.

IDPs in the Local Media: Salience and Silence

Involving selection and salience (Entman 1993), media framing affects populations by stressing certain aspects of reality and pushing others into the background (Lecheler and de Vreese 2012). This generates public support in favour of or condemnation of the related policy (Van Gorp 2005) and makes some of IDPs issues more accessible, visible, or salient to the public (Joris and De Cock 2019). Moreover, the media not only select some of the topics they report on, but also define the way they cover them when it comes to news angle and tones (Joris and De Cock 2019). Media can influence the importance people attach to important issues (Iyengar 2013).

Greg Philo (2013) identified several key themes (or frames) in the media coverage which are pursued in the news when covering asylum seekers in the United Kingdom. These include (1) conflation of forced and economic migration; (2) numbers and exaggeration; (3) burden on welfare and job market; (4) criminality; (5) threats; (6) deportation and human rights; (7) need for ‘immigration control;’ (8) benefits of immigration; (9) problems facing asylum seekers; (10) global capitalism; and (11) imperialism and Western responsibility (Philo 2013, 56–57). To some extent these frames explain the representation of IDPs in the media. However, we propose talking about three groups of frames in terms of reflecting upon IDP issues.

The first group are of ordinary frames of commonplace issues; that is, the issues discussed in any city where forced migrants appear, including IDPs. Firstly, these frames represent housing, employment, and state support. The second group is one of contrasting frames of IDPs stigmatisation, victimisation or even heroisation, which represent them either as victims or as threats and encourage either hostility or hospitality of the local community towards IDPs. The third is peripheral frames of hidden, latent, and overlooked IDPs’ issues. These frames represent IDPs’ personal experiences and aspirations, individual problems, dreams, and intentions. They are peripheral in relation to the occasional, vague, or imperceptible appearances in the media on the backdrop of more pronounced, more covered issues.

Earlier reports on media coverage of IDPs in Ukraine showed a range of problematic issues related to their media framing which included statistical narration, lack of comprehensive material for the audience, identification of issues, but not addressing them (Spilnyy Prostir 2015). While the media used correct terminology and the tone of publications was mostly neutral, the reports about IDPs lacked long-term vision and an analytical approach (Spilnyy Prostir 2016). Mass media, covering IDPs tend to focus on statistical data and politicise the issue with instances of spreading stereotypes and prejudices (Buromensky et al 2016, 43). Monitoring reports from other contexts show that the media tend to avoid negative content related to IDPs (for instance, abuses at the camps for IDPs in Nigeria (Isola and Yusuf 2019) and recommended that journalists devote a greater amount of space to IDPs to voice their problems, not just flagging the hardships they experience (Journalists for Christ 2019).

Ordinary Frames: Housing, Jobs and Social Support

IDPs moving to new locations primarily face the problems of searching for housing, jobs and social support, problems which are understandable to policymakers and journalists. Therefore, these receive a greater amount of attention in the media. Media headlines related to IDPs’ housing, employment and state support are commonplace and sporadically appear in the local media. Such news is usually focused on temporary housing for IDPs, high cost of housing rents, difficulties in obtaining jobs and social assistance. As Bulakh (2017) noted, the areas that were the first in portraying a negative image of IDPs were in the real estate and labour markets (Bulakh 2017).

A World Bank report on IDPs in Georgia concluded there are no significant differences in poverty levels between IDPs and non-IDPs; however, differences persist in unemployment and income security for IDPs. Poor housing conditions are the main source of vulnerability for IDPs, and IDPs are more acutely affected by unemployment than non-IDPs living in the same area (World Bank 2015).

Media reports more often focus on collective centres accommodating IDPs which are the most visible form of their dwellings (Brun 2016). A shortage of housing and job prospects has kept them in these ‘long-term temporary’ housing (Dean 2017). To a certain degree, public attitudes to IDPs and their behaviour and memories are affected by these official narratives, including those voiced by the media (Toria 2015).

Karine Torosyan et al (2018) noted that although labour market outcomes for IDPs are discussed in many policy papers, these are largely descriptive in nature and there are relatively few academic papers on this topic (Torosyan, Pignatti, and Obrizan 2018). However, there are significant disadvantages in the labour market outcomes for IDPs because sometimes they stay unemployed longer compared to locals with similar characteristics even after many years of being displaced (Kondylis 2010; Torosyan et al 2018).

IDPs rely on the assistance of governmental and non-governmental organisations in obtaining social assistance. The social capital of IDPs primarily depends on their relatives or kin and their network of relationships rather than on governmental and non-governmental organisations (Collado 2019). In addition to the socio-economic problems of housing, employment and state support, academic literature and media raise other issues, such as finding that civil conflicts and displacement significantly reduced school attendance and grade completion and affected the mental and physical health of IDPs (Minoiu and Shemyakina 2012; Shemyakina 2006; Siriwardhana and Stewart 2013).

Contrasting Frames: Stigma versus Victims

Another strand of media reports concerns stigmatisation of displaced people, their ‘criminalizing’, presenting them as undesirable, a social threat (Bulakh 2017) or ‘failed citizens’ (Diken and Laustsen 2005), or alternatively, as victims and heroes (Scarabicchi 2019). Media reports mostly contrast positive and negative attitudes towards IDPs in a ‘black versus white’ (Joris and De Cock 2019) and victim-frame versus the intruder-frame (Van Gorp 2005). They rarely represent IDPs simultaneously as victims and perpetrators (Ivashchenko-Stadnik 2017) or threats, and victims (d’Haenens, Willem, and Heinderyckx 2019).

The phenomenon of the shaping and reinforcing of negative attitude to IDPs in the mass media and the production of multiple forms of anxiety and anger have received significant attention in scholarly literature (see Horton and Kraftl 2014). IDPs living in collective centres, stigmatised to some extent (Brun 2016), have received particular attention from the media. They are mostly represented as dwellers of sub-standard housing situated in ‘non-places’ on the city’s edge, as ‘failed citizens’ or even ‘enemies’ (Diken and Laustsen 2005). Moreover, this type of media coverage further isolates and stigmatizes them (Philo 2013).

If IDPs appear, they are traditionally viewed in terms of the threat of conflict and are linked to a growth in crime and even the risk of foreign invasion. Bulakh (2017) emphasises that prejudiced and stereotyped categorisation of IDPs from the Donbas as a social threat is a growing tendency in Ukrainian media. This is based on a deep stereotype of ‘an industrial, underprivileged, and criminal environment’ and a widely circulated myth in the media that crime from the Donbas has ‘followed IDPs to other regions’ (Bulakh 2017). IDPs may inadvertently, directly, or indirectly contribute as both victims and agents to the spreading of conflict to other ‘peaceful’ regions (Bohnet, Cottier, and Hug 2018; Muggah 2010). They are an easy target because they are concentrated and vulnerable (Lischer 2008).

But in other cases, positive media coverage of IDPs evoke emotion and sympathy, activating private individuals to assist them (Tyyskä, Blower, Deboer, Kawai, and Walcott 2018). To prevent negative associations and stigmatisation, and not to be in the ‘media spotlight’, IDPs who can afford to move not to the temporary collective centres (such as the so-called transit towns in Ukrainian cities), but to gated communities within city limits and in suburbia. Thus, the polarisation of IDPs can be observed between two different types of gated camps.

Peripheral Frames: Temporariness, Social Networking and Trauma

Visible problems of officially registered IDPs who receive state support in housing, employment and social assistance appear frequently in the media. However, a significant ‘multi-layered pie’ of the problems of invisible IDPs who solve their own problems are often overlooked. These ‘layers’ include ‘permanent temporariness’ and ‘double temporariness’ (Brun, 2000 2016), their ‘hybridity’ and ‘shuttling’ displacement (Ivashchenko-Stadnik 2017), self-generated social networking, and everyday emotional-affective impact of the trauma they experienced (Horton and Kraftl 2014).

Naohiko Omata (2019) describes selection bias concerning research on IDPs who did not receive sufficient and adequate attention from academics, domestic and international aid organisations, students, and journalists. While the ‘over-researched’ IDPs are increasingly distrustful and decline to participate in further studies because they have not seen any improvement in their life, the ‘under-researched’ IDPs remain under the media radar and their voices are less audible in the global (and especially urban) arena (Omata 2019).

Less visible self-settled IDPs who live with relatives and friends or rent dwellings (so called ‘privately accommodated IDPs’) have less access to social assistance and protection and they represent a heterogeneous group about whom we know very little (Brun 2016). Moving reluctantly from dwelling to dwelling, they have experienced a ‘double temporariness’ with temporary status as IDPs and temporary lives in the dwellings they occupy (Brun 2016). Moreover, protracted displacement or ‘permanent temporariness’ (Brun 2000 2016) of IDPs can be understood as a kind of ‘normal abnormality’ (Mcintyre 2002) at a time when public interest in their problems is decreasing. Meanwhile, temporary displaced dwellers increasingly solve problems on their own.

It is difficult to unambiguously assess the social impact and attitudes to ‘shuttling IDPs’ who are registered as displaced persons to receive social assistance, but at the same time have no will power to rent accommodation, search for jobs in their new locations or to leave Russian-controlled territories in the Donbas (Ivashchenko-Stadnik 2017). Therefore, the media sometimes prefer to not raise these issues. It is difficult to understand IDPs’ ‘hybridity’ of both being displaced without gaining an official status and having an official status but not being displaced (Ivashchenko-Stadnik 2017).

Social networks, being underrepresented in public media, play a key role in the daily life of IDPs and solve a range of their problems. On the one hand, several studies have emphasised the more important role of mutual assistance of IDPs through internal social networks, especially relatives and friends, as a coping strategy (Collado 2019; Ivashchenko-Stadnik 2017). On the other hand, the loss of established connections and to some extent the closeness and inaccessibility of local networks for (unwanted) newcomers, forces them to rely only on themselves or to disguise their IDP status. Some of them prefer to not be recognised as IDPs, suggesting that such a status excludes them from full membership in the hosting community as temporary stayers (Brun 2016). This invisibility may be not only an obstacle but also an alternative coping strategy (Montemurro and Walicki 2010).

To some extent, the media pay more attention to the problems of female IDPs who often experience violence and mental health problems, such as traumatic stress disorder and depression (Roberts, Ocaka, Browne, Oyok, and Sondorp 2008). Research findings show that employment and poverty affect men and women equally. Moreover, Kabachnik (2013) highlights the issue of ‘traumatic masculinities.’ Studies of IDPs from Georgia’s Abkhazian region emphasised that men experienced trauma through their inability to improve their poor living conditions and to provide prospects for a better life in the future, and as consequently they would lose their privileged status as the head of the household (Kabachnik 2013). The same can be seen for male displaced persons from the Donbas. Traditionally, men who work hard in coal mines and industrial plants are unquestionably perceived as breadwinners. Women are becoming more active in addressing family issues and more present in official and unofficial media while men lose their visibility (Brun, 2000; Kabachnik 2013).

Urban Turn

Even though displaced people tend to concentrate in urban areas (Christensen and Harild 2009) ‘the question of IDPs’ is largely considered as a nationwide question, and responsibility for resolving it therefore belongs to the national government (Albuja & Ceballos 2010; Su 2010). As a result of this, local media represent IDPs as a nationwide phenomenon who are temporarily affecting their city. However, urban displacement has clearly localised effects and municipal administrations have become front-line actors (Guterres 2010). Paraphrasing Rick Su (2010), IDPs issues matter to urban policymakers and urban issues matter to IDPs policymakers. Therefore, an ‘urban turn’ in media analysis can lead to an understanding of IDPs issues more adequately and be helpful for all stakeholders in urban development.

Most of Dnipro’s residents have limited contacts with IDPs, both because of their small share in the city population and because they do not to want to stand out among others and attract too much attention. Media are the main source of information on IDPs for locals (Joris and De Cock 2019) and local media play an important role in ‘projecting’ IDPs’ issues to the city.

The media use their influence on the interpretation of some processes and problems by emphasising specific frames and downplaying others (Gamson and Modigliani 1989; Joris and De Cock 2019). At the city level this is more visible when media emphasise frames to interpret these problems according to desirable (for certain political forces) urban policy. This allows for an understanding of opposition to or cooperation with various urban development actors, not only on IDPs but more broadly on the public opinion about the effectiveness of resolving urban problems.


To analyse the media coverage of IDPs in Dnipro we selected three local television channels controlled by Ukrainian oligarchs (IMI 2017). Channel 9 is tied with the Privat group controlled by former governor of Dnipro Ihor Kolomoyskyy (Forbes 2020a) and Hennadiy Boholyubov; channel 11 is owned by Viktor Pinchuk’s Star Light Media (Forbes 2020c); and Rinat Akhmetov’s Systems Capital Management has a majority (68 per cent) stake in Channel 34 (Forbes 2020b). The three television channels have traditionally been considered the most influential in Dnipropetrovsk oblast (Kurbatov 2018).

For our analysis, we collected a total of 168 reports which included 52 from channel 9, 19 from channel 11 and 95 from channel 34. Our sample includes both video material and texts published by the websites of the three channels between December 2016 and July 2020 and containing the lexeme ‘IDPs’ in plural referring to IDPs as a group. The lexeme is identical in the Ukrainian and Russian language as ‘переселенц’. Search tools allowed us to ignore endings which were different in Ukrainian (переселенці) and Russian (переселенцы) enabling us to collect publications mentioning IDPs in both languages. We used integrated search tools on the websites of the three television channels.

For encoding the collected content, a codebook was developed (see Annex 1). Apart from its basic characteristics (headline, link, dates) a coder had to define the topic of a news item choosing between seven available options: (1) accommodation and housing; (2) employment: (3) state support; (4) human rights; (5) charity; (6) personal stories; and (7) others. A coder also had to indicate whether the news story included direct quotes by IDPs (yes or no) and define whether IDPs were represented as a proactive group, or they lacked agency (yes or no). 

Intercoder reliability was measured based on the formula and procedure proposed by Lacy and Riffe (1996). For 95 per cent level of probability and the sample size of 64 units, the coder agreement was 95.3 per cent higher than the assumed level of agreement of 90 per cent.

IDPs in the Local Media: Key Topics

The largest share of publications about IDPs concerned charity efforts (28 per cent) provided by international support, local initiatives, concerts, food, or supply of medicines. This share was greatest at Channel 34 where 40 per cent of publications mentioned Akhmetov’s charity fund. The oligarch’s name was mostly mentioned in quotes by IDPs who thanked him for medicine, housing or covering other needs. Interestingly, the IDPs thanked ‘Rinat Leonidovich’ personally, not the fund in general. Such news stories normally followed a certain structure of the description of a problem faced by an IDP which Akhmetov’s fund had assisted in resolving followed by a direct quote an IDP who thanked Akhmetov. Akhmetov’s fund is sometimes mentioned in the headlines and the fund’s visibility are featured in photos and videos. The other two channels did not mention charity initiatives by their oligarch beneficiaries.

Other leading topics were housing, employment, and state support for the IDPs which comprised half of all the publications in the sample. Housing (19 per cent) was the most pressing issue with media attention higher when it came to large-scale construction projects in the region. The topic of employment (13 per cent) was mostly represented by announcements or media reports about courses for IDPs aimed at improving their chances to find employment. The topic of state support (18 per cent) gave instructions on how to apply for social allowances for IDPs or provided details of local budgets. Several publications also provided stories about fraud committed by IDPs who did not have the right to receive social allowances. Channels 9 and 11 paid greater attention to the topics of housing, employment, and state support (e.g., every fourth publication about IDPs on channel 9 dealt with state support) compared to channel 34 which was more focused on charity efforts, especially those funded by Akhmetov.

The least reported topic in local media was human and citizen’s rights (4 per cent), including their right to vote, rights of disabled people, children’s rights, integration in local communities and other related issues. Personal stories of IDPs who escaped the war (11 per cent) also did not receive enough media attention.

Overall, the distribution of topics clearly showed the lack of empowering stories related to IDPs which concurred with previous reports of media coverage of IDPs in Ukraine. While there are instances of human-based stories, the media mostly analyse statistics and describe the issues without addressing them.

Representation of IDPs

More than a half of the publications in the sample (52 per cent) had no quotes by IDPs. This meant the materials did not directly quote representatives of IDPs or mention their interests or problems in general. Without quotes from individuals the stories did not have a ‘face’ and were impersonalised. IDPs are mainly mentioned as a faceless group accepting a helping hand. Based on media representations, they do not demand anything and passively accept what they are offered by donors, charity funds and the local authorities. Earlier monitoring of Ukrainian media also highlighted the problem of not quoting IDPs in their reports, documenting that while the coverage itself was presented neutrally, the IDPs or other sources were never quoted. Instead, the reports focused on official statements (Spilnyi Prostir 2015).

Journalists tend to cover certain topics related to IDPs almost without giving voice to the group. For instance, 81 per cent of the publications dealing with state support did not quote IDPs. In a video material aired on channel 11 about the regional forum ‘Headline: Problems of IDPs were discussed at a regional forum at Regional State Administration’ (Channel 11 2016a), IDPs were mentioned as a group and their problems were commented on by a local official and the Head of the Council of Europe office in Ukraine. The IDPs themselves, despite being present at the forum, did not voice their problems and remained faceless. Instead, officials discussed how to ‘improve the life of IDPs and defend their rights.’ Channel 34 demonstrated a similar approach when it reported that the State Regional Administration and the University of the Ministry of Internal Affairs ‘will work together on the problems of IDPs,’ seeking to emphasise how donors care about IDPs while at the same time ignoring the voice of the group.

Only 14 per cent of the publications mentioned IDPs as proactive people who were making efforts to improve their situation. The remainder of the publications (86 per cent) represented IDPs as supplicants who received state support and sought assistance. Obviously, most of the news stories (58 per cent) representing IDPs as a proactive group dealt with their personal stories of IDPs. At the same time, 98 per cent of news stories covering charity initiatives represented IDPs as passive receivers of assistance. The local media probably do not view IDPs as headline stories of interest to their viewers and therefore they mainly covered charity initiatives.

IDPs were often mentioned along with other vulnerable groups or people in need. A typical news story about IDPs and charity initiatives stated that someone donated assistance to IDPs, such as along the lines of children of IDPs, orphans and students at a Sunday school received presents from the Ukrainian Perspective Fund (Channel 34 2016). There were no stories and there was no background given about these children. The approach of channel 34 to charity materials was more sophisticated with IDPs given a voice and more background provided about their life story.

Even when it came to employment and educational opportunities created for IDPs, students are still represented as receiving assistance. They remain passive even in the rare publications where IDPs are represented as a proactive group, such as ‘active IDPs are taught how to start a business’ (Channel 11 2016b). In publications where IDPs are represented as lacking agency, their passivity is even more common, with ‘IDPs are left on their own’ and ‘IDP-teenagers will be sent to a summer camp’ (Channel 34 2019).

The distribution of topics showed that local Dnipro media do not invest enough effort and resources into telling personal stories of IDPs or by humanising news reports with statistics and official events. IDPs often remain voiceless and faceless in media reports concerning their problems. Even when the news reports contain quotes by IDPs they still often represent them as a passive group in need of assistance.

Local media in Dnipro primarily represent IDPs mostly as a vulnerable social group in need of housing, jobs, and state support. The contrasting frames of stigmatisation and ‘heroisation’, hostility and hospitality towards IDPs are less clearly traced. Finally, in the local media, peripheral frames are almost absent. Instead, the problems faced by IDPs are represented through the lens of they can be solved with the help of ‘wealthy patrons’ (i.e., oligarchs) who care about the city and newcomers to emphasise the importance of the principle ‘we don’t leave our people behind.’

Media coverage plays a key role in the construction of socially shared understandings and dominant representations (Tyyskä et al 2018) of IDPs in Dnipro. Based on media representation analysis, we identified four aspects of the imposition of the perception of IDPs to the city’s residents. These included:

  1. Attempting to persuade locals to perceive IDPs as a group of forced migrants as in any other city which faces typical problems of housing, employment, and social assistance.
  2. Encouraging the city’s residents to think about IDPs with gratitude towards a ‘true lord of the city’ who took care of solving their problems so that locals do not need to worry about it.
  3. Exerting influence on locals to shift their focus from the IDPs as a part of their city and their neighbours to routine problems by emphasising this was not a specific issue for this city, there are already those who care about IDPs, or that the city has more urgent problems.

Encouraging residents to perceive IDPs collectively not as individuals with their own aspirations, intentions, dreams, and desires, but rather to perceive them within the framework of victim-threat which reduced them to a (temporarily) suffering, anonymous population (Smets, Mazzocchetti, Gerstmans, and Mostmans 2019), who could threaten the life of the city through greater risks of crime. The capabilities and future of IDPs with skills, ambitions, and dreams of their own (d’Haenens, Willem, and Heinderyckx 2019; Smets et al 2019) are thus ignored.


While media did not openly discriminate against IDPs and they use neutral language, our analysed reports mostly focused on pressing issues in a descriptive way, not by trying to address them. Among the leading local media topics are housing, employment, and state support for the IDPs while exaggerated attention is paid to charity efforts. Local media are biased and provide a bigger stage for oligarchs than for ordinary people. They cover IDP issues as a group receiving benefits, largely ignoring deeper issues such as their human rights, adaptation and trauma and the question of a sense of belonging. More than half of the analysed publications did not give voice to IDPs in any form and reports did not directly quote representatives of the group while mentioning their interests or problems.

The local media in Dnipro overwhelmingly use ordinary frames, while the contrasting frames are less clearly traced and peripheral frames are overlooked. Instead, the frame of charity is widely used by local media and abused by media owners. Media reports demonstrate that the analysed television channels are biased and dependant on (local) political elites, especially when it comes to Channel 34. They do not look for solutions to the urgent and hidden problems of IDPs.

Thus, local media in Dnipro represent IDPs in more traditional ways as lacking deeper insight into their hidden problems and not providing outlets for the voices of invisible displaced persons. If they are proactive enough, they could act on a do-it-yourself basis, otherwise, their integration into their new home will remain a spontaneous process with unknown consequences and unforeseeable results.

Further research should focus upon the assessment of the impact of media frames on city residents’ opinions about IDPs and their issues. Television reports bring attention to some aspects while obscuring others and may lead to different reactions among audiences (Entman 1993), sometimes unexpected. While identifying these reactions could deepen understanding of their problems.

In the city of Dnipro, one can find graffiti devoted to IDPs with the words: ‘Home is not where you live, but where you are understood.’ Do the local media aim to hear the voices of IDPs and understand them? Not very much. By and large, they stay within the predefined frames of IDPs’ coverage. What will home mean to them in the future? Where will they be understood? This depends not only on geopolitical intrigues and national policy, but also on the reports in local media targeted at host communities.


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