OSCE Representative condemns continued deterioration of media freedom and safety of journalists in areas not controlled by Ukrainian government
VIENNA, 24 January 2017 – Following the latest Report of the Chief Monitor of the Special Monitoring Mission to the OSCE Permanent Council, the Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović today condemned the continued deterioration of media freedom and safety of journalists in conflict-affected parts of Ukraine.
On 19 January OSCE Chief Monitor, Ambassador Ertugrul Apakan, among other issues, highlighted in his address to the OSCE Permanent Council several developments which continue to limit freedom of expression and freedom of the media in areas not controlled by the Ukrainian government, including a ban of over 350 websites and continued restriction of access to Ukrainian media outlets, both in print and broadcast. Particularly worrying, the Representative noted, is the continued threats and intimidation of media workers, as well as the arrests of bloggers Eduard Nedelyaev and Gennadiy Benitskiy by “LPR” members.
“Access to information, plurality of opinion and the safety of journalists continue to suffer in times of crisis,” Mijatović said. “As is the case in Crimea, the ongoing deterioration of free expression and free media in conflict-affected parts of Ukraine is deeply disturbing.”
In addition, the Representative expressed concern once again regarding the persecution of Crimean journalist Nikolay Semena from the Krym-realii online media outlet. According to reports, on 20 January Semena was indicted for “public calls for actions violating the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.” The indictment follows the publication of an article, written by the journalist, expressing his views on the status of the peninsula. If convicted he faces up to five years in prison.
“The case of Semena reminds us all of the arbitrary practice of silencing critical voices in Crimea,” Mijatović said. “It is totally unacceptable to persecute the journalist for expressing his views. I call for all charges against Semena to be dropped.”
“I once again call on all those responsible for law and order in these areas to stop the destruction of freedom of the media and do their utmost to ensure the safety of journalists,” Mijatović said.
Mijatović added that it is difficult to give a comprehensive assessment of the current state of affairs of media freedom and to engage with journalists in conflict-affected parts of Ukraine and in Crimea, due, primarily, to a number of access and security obstacles.
The Representative has repeatedly expressed concern about media freedom violations in Crimea and the conflict-affected parts of eastern Ukraine, particularly highlighting attacks on journalists and media outlets, as well as the blocking of Ukrainian broadcasting channels and their illegal replacement with state broadcasters from the Russian Federation (see www.osce.org/fom/118990, www.osce.org/fom/143861, www.osce.org/fom/234691, www.osce.org/fom/121673 and www.osce.org/fom/144931).
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 www.facebook.com/osce.rfom.