Government Communications in Terms of Coronavirus
Pandemic on the Example of Novi Sanzhary Events
Mykhailo Omelchenko, Master Student Institute of Journalism, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv 36/1 Illienka St., Kyiv, 04119, Ukraine
The main objective of the article is to analyze an example of implementation of government communications in connection with the mass protest of residents from Novi Sanzhary, the urban-type settlement in Poltava region caused by evacuation of the Ukrainian citizens from Wuhan (PRC) on February 20, 2020. Through the comprehensive retrospective analysis of the government’s communication policy as well as the analysis of statements of government officials and local authorities in the media it was identified that the government communication policy became a major factor of mass protest in a pandemic. The government’s uncertainty in choosing the final medical facility to quarantine the evacuees and a lack of awareness among the government officials about socio-economic and demographic characteristics of Novi Sanzhary’s residents led to a deliberately ineffective communication strategy: 1) the residents of Novi Sanzhary were not properly informed about the specifics of means of coronavirus’ spread and lethality – it resulted in the government’s inability to predict the behavior and reaction of the locals to evacuation; 2) there was a lack of communication and coordination between the government’s officials and local authorities of Novi Sanzhary – this resulted in the opposition of local authorities to evacuation combined with their spreading of false rumors among the locals and their support of the protest; 3) the officials spread the false messages related to the protesters, that questioned their subjectivity and simultaneously politicized the protest. In addition, the government was unable to counter the leaks of confidential information in the social and mass media on the eve of evacuation, which minimized unexpectedness of the operation. Altogether, these factors led to the mass protest of Novy Sanzhary’s residents against evacuation of the Ukrainian citizens on February 20, 2020. The consequences of the protests impacted negatively on the international image of Ukraine. As a result, the article offers the certain recommendations aimed to improve the government communications in the terms of coronavirus pandemic in Ukraine.
KEYWORDS: government communications; COVID-19; social communications; crisis communications; Novi Sanzhary; mass protests.
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