Journalists face violence, intimidation and psychological warfare in conflict areas in Ukraine says OSCE Representative
ODESA, 16 April 2014 - Ending her three-day visit to Ukraine, OSCE media freedom representative Dunja Mijatović today said that the media freedom situation in Ukraine has reached a very dangerous stage, and she alerted OSCE participating States that unless this trend is reversed it could contribute to the deterioration of the security situation.
"Media freedom is a reflection of the overall security situation. From my perspective the situation is alarming, with risk of further deterioration unless it is immediately improved. Violence against journalists must stop now and the rule of law needs to be restored throughout the country," Mijatović said.
On 14-16 April Mijatović travelled to Kharkiv, Kyiv and Odesa to meet with journalists from these regions and from Donetsk, Mykolayiv and Crimea. She discussed journalists’ safety, banning of broadcasters and blocking of journalists from entering Ukraine with members of the media, acting Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsa and Deputy Interior Minister Mykola Velychkovych.
"Journalists are under attack, both physically and as part of the ongoing psychological warfare. Journalists in conflict areas face violence, seizure and destruction of equipment, and threats on a daily basis,” Mijatović said.
“Journalists in Crimea face additional problems with media re-registration, possible eviction from the region if they are not considered loyal and do not change citizenship, vicious labelling, threats and denial of access to public information.”
The journalists that met with the Representative reported that they see little or no protection from police and other law-enforcement agencies. The cases of police violence against journalists that occurred under the previous government have not yet been investigated.
In the Donetsk and Kharkiv regions there have been a number of attacks against members of the media during the past few days. The attacks include the beating of Yevgen Polojii, editor of Panorama, and Mikhail Dugin of Polytavska Dumka-2000.
In addition, a BBC television crew and Frederick Paxton of Vice News were threatened and had their equipment stolen or destructed. Graham Phillips, a freelance journalist for RT, Alexander Belinsky, editor of Gorlovka.ua and journalists from Hromadske TV and Lenta.ru were kidnapped and then released. The offices of Gorlovka.ua and newspaper Kriminal Ekspress were vandalized and cars belonging to Alexei Matsuka of Novosti Donbassa and to Odesa First City Channel were set on fire.
"I have heard alarming first-hand accounts of the attacks against journalists. The authorities must do their utmost to protect all journalists. Freedom of media and information are essential in times of crisis as a way to de-escalate the conflict,” Mijatović said.
“There must be no impunity for crimes committed against media representatives. I also appeal to the journalists to have solidarity, report the truth and to stay safe."
The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media observes media developments in all 57 OSCE participating States. She provides early warning on violations of freedom of expression and media freedom and promotes full compliance with OSCE media freedom commitments. Learn more at www.osce.org/fom, Twitter: @OSCE_RFoM and on facebook.com/osce.rfom.