Location Ukraine Ukraine

Summary of attacks on media in Ukraine

Besides its regular press releases, Reporters Without Borders is maintaining a Ukraine news feed in order to summarize the violations of freedom of information constantly taking place in Ukraine. Published on Friday 13 March 2015.

We have analyzed this summary and propose you our extracts. Incidents in Crimea and to “journalists” working in cooperation with Ukrainian Nazi groups are excluded from this chronicle.

1.1.2015 – TV station threatened with loss of licence
National Security and Defence Council secretary Aleksandr Turshinov called on 1 January for Inter TV to be stripped of its broadcasting licence for siding with Russia in its information war with Ukraine. The call came after Inter TV retransmitted a Russian TV station’s New Year programme that included performers who support Russia’s policies towards Ukraine.
In a reaction on Facebook, information minister Yuriy Stets undertook to present a bill that would force the media to respect Ukraine’s list of personae non gratae. Inter TV insisted that it had complied with Ukraine’s laws and regarded Turshinov’s comments as unprecedented pressure on the media.
Reporters Without Borders reminds the information minister of his duty to respect media pluralism and asks him to refrain from any act of censorship that would jeopardize freedom of information in Ukraine.

03.01.2015 – Masked men attack TV station’s headquarters in Kiev
Around 20 masked men attacked Inter TV’s Kiev headquarters on 3 January, breaking windows and daubing its walls with graffiti. Several people were arrested on hooliganism charges but were quickly released.
The attack came three days after National Security and Defence Council secretary Aleksandr Turshinov called for Inter TV to be stripped of its licence for retransmitting a Russian TV station’s New Year’s Eve programme. After being criticized, the station cancelled several other Russian entertainment programmes that would traditionally have been broadcast during the holiday.
National Broadcasting Council chief Yuri Artemenko said that Inter TV’s broadcasting of the Russian TV programme would be examined by the council on 15 January, but that only a court would withdraw Inter TV’s licence.

05.01.2015 – Luhansk rebels free website editor after five months
The self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) freed Serhiy Sakadinsky, the editor of the Politika 2.0 news website on 5 January, after holding him for five months. His wife, Mariya Havak, said it is not yet known why he was released.
Members of the LPR’s Batman battalion arrested Sakadinsky and his wife near Hostra Mohyla, a village in the Luhansk region, on 2 August 2014 on the grounds that they had “suspicious” documents and photos of the centre of Luhansk that Sakadinsky had taken as part of his work. They were taken away and interrogated, and Sakadinsky was so badly beaten that one of his hands was broken. When released on 1 October, Havak was able to see her husband while he was being held in the basement of the University of Luhansk’s lobby, which the Batman battalion was using at its headquarters.
The interior ministry subsequently took charge of Sakadinsky and, on 30 December, the PRL prosecutor’s office began investigating allegations that members of the battalion tortured many of the hostages they had held in cellars from July to October 2014.
This was not Sakadinsky’s first run-in with PRL rebels. Gunmen kidnapped him for 24 hours after his Luhansk office was ransacked on 6 July 2014.

10.02.2014 – Bill would jail those who “deny or defend” Russian aggression
Igor Artiushenko, a Ukrainian parliamentarian and member of the president’s party, the Petro Poroshenko Bloc, introduced a bill on 9 February that would make “publicly denying or defending Russia’s military aggression” against Ukraine punishable by three years in prison, or five years for repeat offenders or offenders who are government employees. An explanatory note accompanying the bill says that, whether a repetition of Russian propaganda or the expression of a personal opinion, such comments “threaten the key principles of the world order.”
Reporters Without Borders roundly condemns the bill and urges parliamentarians to vote against it. Ever since the Ukrainian parliament officially declared Russia to be an “aggressor state” on 27 January, several draconian bills have been proposed with the declared aim of defending national security or combatting Russian propaganda. So far none has been adopted.

16.02.2014 – Journalist and blogger jailed on treason charges
Journalist Andrei Zakharchuk and blogger Ruslan Kotsaba have been placed in pre-trial detention in Ukraine on unrelated high treason charges. Zakharchuk was detained on 12 February, Kotsaba on 8 February. Both are facing up to 15 years in prison. Reporters Without Borders calls on the SBU and the judicial authorities to explain what exactly they are alleged to have done.
“The evidence mentioned publicly seems flimsy in relation to the gravity of the charges,” said Johann Bihr, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.
“We are concerned that the courts are citing their work for Russian media as evidence against them. It is described as secondary but what role does this aspect play in the prosecution cases? Expressing views or working for a news outlet of any kind cannot be likened to hostile intelligence agency activity.”
Zakharchuk, who works for the Russian news agency Nevskie Novosti, was arrested by the SBU in the southern city of Mykolaiv on 10 February, and was detained for an initial period of two months. He said he had returned to Ukraine from Russia on a personal trip but he is accused of photographing strategic installations (bridges and an armour plate factory). Officials have also said his journalistic activities “encouraged separatist opinions and Ukraine’s destabilization.” Describing the charges as absurd, Nevskie Novosti said he just covers sport and local activities in Saint Petersburg.
Kotsaba, a former journalist living in the western city of Ivano-Frankivsk, was arrested for campaigning against sending conscripts to fight in eastern Ukraine. In a video posted on YouTube on 17 January, he expressed his opposition to conscription and urged his fellow citizens to do the same. Thereafter, several leading Russian TV stations interviewed him. He was also accused in court of covering anti-conscription demonstrations and giving “provocative” interviews to the Russian TV station NTV. In his coverage of the fighting in the eastern Donbass region last summer, he described the conflict as “fratricidal” and said Russian troops were not involved.

18.02.2015 – Ukraine withdraws accreditation from reporters for Russian media
Vladimir Grossman, the speaker of the Ukrainian parliament (Rada), formally announced on 17 February that journalists working for certain Russian news media would be temporarily stripped of their accreditation with Ukrainian state entities. The SBU (Security Service of Ukraine) has been asked to draw up a list of the news outlets concerned.
Describing the decision as “flagrant discrimination,” the Russian foreign ministry said it represented “the continuation of a policy of purging the media” in Ukraine. The Ukrainian government said the measure was necessary because of “the threat that these media pose to state security.”

18.02.2015 – TV crew comes under fire near Debaltseve
A 112 Ukraina TV crew came under fire between Artemovsk and the strategic city of Debaltseve, in the Donetsk region, on 17 February. The crew had just stopped at the roadside to film a destroyed truck when shells fell around their vehicle. Journalist Evhen Kurulenko sustained minor injuries but the driver was badly hurt by shrapnel.
Fierce fighting continues around Debaltseve despite the latest Minsk ceasefire agreement that was supposed to take effect on 15 February. After surrounding the city, the rebels managed to force the Ukrainian army to pull out on 18 February.

21.02.2015 – Journalist freed in prisoner swap
Andrey Zakharchuk, a Ukrainian journalist working for the Russian news agency Nevskie Novosti, was released by the Ukrainian authorities on 21 February as part of a prisoner swap with the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Luhansk. He had been arrested by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) on 10 February and charged with high treason (see 16.02.2015 entry). He returned to the Russian city of Saint Petersburg, where he normally lives and where he plans to resume working as a journalist.

21.02.2015 – Accreditation withdrawn from nearly 110 media outlets
At the Ukrainian parliament’s request (see 18.02.2015 entry), the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has drawn up a list of Russian media outlets whose journalists in Ukraine are being stripped of their accreditation with state institutions. The list, comprising nearly 110 news media, was released on 21 February. It includes the state news agencies Itar TASS and Ria Novosti and all the Russian TV stations except Dozhd.

25.02.2015 – Two more Russian journalists expelled from Ukraine
The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) detained two Russian journalists working for pro-Kremlin TV stations – Elena Makarova of Pervy Kanal and Andrey Grigoriev of NTV – in central Kiev on 25 February while they were covering the “March of Truth,” an anti-government demonstration organized by the ultra-nationalist Pravy Sektor.
The SBU subsequently decided to deport them and ban them from returning for the next five years. SBU spokesperson Elena Gitliantskaya said the decision was linked to their “anti-Ukrainian propaganda.”
The SBU also detained and expelled Elisaveta Khramtsova and Natalia Kalyshyeva of the Russian TV station Lifenews on 30 January, banning them from Ukraine for the next five years. According to SBU data, 88 Russian media workers were expelled from April 2014 to February 2015.

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