Ukraine: media freedom digest 20-27 January, 2014

Overview of key developments affecting Ukraine’s media freedom

by Internews Ukraine. The project is funded by the EU

This weekly digest provides the analysis of key developments affecting media freedom in Ukraine, amid difficult social and political situation.

Key trends:

1) Journalists continue to be a target for the police

Journalists covering mass protests in Ukraine, continue to suffer from the tyranny of the police and gangsters loyal to authorities. Attacks on journalists are reported not only in Kyiv, but accompany active protests in Ukraine’s regions.In Kyiv dozens of journalists were injured in clashes on Hrushevskoho street. Policemen repeatedly attacked journalists deliberately. A Radio Liberty (Radio Svoboda) journalist who was broadcasting events live actually captured the moment in which Berkut officers aimed and fired at reporters:

A rubber bullet pierced through a Channel 5 camera: Natalka Pisnya, a journalist at 1+1 TV channel, was injured in her leg with a similar bullet: A cameraman of Spilno TV, an online TV channel, also suffered a hand injury while broadcasting the police attack:

Soldiers of internal troops attacked Myroslav Misa, a journalist of the Radio “Liberty”, and seized his phone when he was filming the police frisking people on the streets. The soldiers twisted the hands of the journalist, torn his journalistic ID and threatened him.

On January 22 police used fire arms against Yurii Gruzynov, a cameraman of the documentaries project BABYLON’13. Police snipers fired at Associated Press journalists Efrem Lukatskii and Dmitrii Vlasov with rubber bullets. Efrem Lukatskii was hit in the head, but helmet saved his life.

Oleg  Veremeyenko was filming an activist holding a flag on the protesters’ barricade, when Berkut snipers opened fire against the people. A rubber bullet pierced Veremeyenko’s helmet.

Overall, over 40 journalists were injured in Kyiv during clashes on Hrushevskoho street only.

In Lviv, early on January 26th, three unknowns severely beat Vadim Shevchenko, a cameraman of the TV channel «Zik». The strangers attacked the journalist near his house, and hit him in the face, in this way « punishing » him for his filming of protests.

In Cherkassy on January 24th, during the clashes between protesters and the police a fighter of the special police division “Berkut” seized a camera from Marianna Nemchenko, a photographer of the Internet media outlet “Pro Vse”. She was filming the detention of a group of young people. The police gave the camera back after deleting all its content.

Also in Cherkassy two journalists of Polish TV channel “Belsat” were attacked: Serhei Marchuk was wounded, and Yurii Vysotskii was detained by the police.

In Dnipropetrovsk, during clashes, two cameramen of the local “34 channel” asked for medical help. Both of them were wearing special clearly marked press vests. According to the journalists, they were shot in the back with traumatic weapon by young men of sporty appearance, presumably hired by the authorities. In the same city, in Dnipropetrovsk, the unknown showered stones onto a film crew of the TV channel ICTV.

In Zaporizhia during the dispersal of Euromaidan on the evening of January 26th Dmitrii Smolenok, a journalist of the website “VV”, was beaten by the police and detained. Another journalist, Yurii Gudimenko, was injured too. “I was filming until I was struck by police truncheon in my hand, in which I was holding my journalist ID.”

In Mykolaiv Oleh Dereniuha, a journalist of the website “NilVesti”, was attacked at a rally in support of the ruling Party of Regions.

In Kharkiv on January 25th, young men wearing sports suits attacked the supporters of Euromaidan. Some journalists were injured: one of them got a head injury, another (a photographer of the channel “1+1”) got his camera broken.

2) Journalists facing charges of participating in mass riots

Journalists continue to face charges of participating in mass riots. Recently, a court has ruled 2-month detention for Marian Havryliv, a photographer from Lviv, detained during the dispersal of protesters at Hrushevskoho street in Kyiv. He is facing charges of participating in mass riots. Earlier police detained Andrey Kiselev, a Lenta.doc editor, but released him later.

3) Prominent reporters leave the country

Vitaly Portnikov, a prominent Ukrainian journalist, had to leave the country after threats he received from three unknowns who visited his apartment the previous day.

4) Policemen consider journalists as their enemies

Policemen not only aggress journalists, but apparently target them deliberately, considering them as their enemies. Reporters repeatedly stress that their orange “press” vests not only protect them from the aggression, but provokes the most aggressive policemen. Olga Shatnaya describes how she was beaten by the Berkut officers despite her clearly marked media identity. Even interior troops soldiers, more moderate than Berkut, believe that media work against them, she says. During her dialogues with them, soldiers “wondered why journalists did not show the situation as it was. They apparently also think that we distort information.”

5) Several journalists are leaving government-loyal TV channels

A number of journalists left government-loyal Ukrainian TV channels in protests against censorship and biased coverage of the events.

Oksana Korniichuk, the chief editor of news, and Yulia Galushka, the anchor of the “Novosti” and the “Itogi Dnia” programs, are leaving the First National TV channel. In early December, Ihor Medelian, a special correspondent of information and analytical programs of the First National, and the channel’s correspondents Serhiy Lefter and Yaroslav Trakalo, quit their jobs in protest against the channel’s editorial policy.

Additionally, some journalists from the other state-backed channels have reportedly resigned. In particular, Serhiy Barbu, a TV presenter, left the “112” channel, associated with Vitaliy Zakharchenko, Ukraine’s Interior Minister. Serhiy Kudimov, a presenter of the «Business» channel, resigned too.

6) International media voice their support to their Ukrainian colleagues

Many journalists worldwide expressed their solidarity with their Ukrainian colleagues. Polish reporters issued a special statement. “We are not going to passively observe what is happening to our colleagues in Ukraine,” reads their address.

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