Overview of key developments affecting Ukraine’s media freedom
28 January-11 February, 2014
Internews Ukraine. The project is funded by the EU
This regular digest provides the analysis of key developments affecting media freedom in Ukraine, amid current political situation and Euromaidan protests.
1. Journalists continue to be attacked by the police or unknowns
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 in Kyiv and in the regions.
Unknown persons attacked Oleksandr Yasenchuk, editor of a Chernihiv online media outlet, on the evening of February 9th. The attackers smashed his head with metal bars and broke his arm. His colleague said the attack was a consequence of Yasenchuk’s journalistic activities and his support to the cause of Euromaidan (Ukrainian mass anti-government protests).
Unknown persons also attacked the office of the regional TV channel Kapri, in the city of Krasnoarmiisk of Donetsk region, on the night of February 8th. The attackers smashed windows and threw three firebombs into the building. The management of Kapri says the incident was connected to their professional activities, in particular to their efforts of unbiased coverage of the events in Ukraine.
An unknown supporter of the authorities smashed the camera of the Novyi Channel in Dnipropetrovsk during a pro-governmental rally. At the moment of the incident the journalists were trying to film the pro-government tent camp from quite far distance.
In Luhansk, on February 2nd, regime supporters attacked the crew of the Сhannel 5, along with journalists of the “Vostochnyi Korrespondent” and of the “Parallel-Media”.
On Jan 28th in Simferopol the unknown attackers smashed the camera of a reporter of the «Centre for journalist investigations» Sergiy Mokrushyn. The policemen were present but passive during the attack.
In Torez (Donetsk region) the unknowns have severely beaten Igor Abyzov, editor in chief of a local newspaper «Pro Gorod» (About the City). The newspaper faced intimidations and other pressure, connected by its investigations into the activities of local utilities companies.
Two journalists from Kazan (Russia) were kidnapped in Kyiv on February 1st. The journalists were severely beaten.
In Cherkassy, Berkut officers have beaten Stanislav Kukharchuk, a journalist of Inter TV channel. He was beaten in his head during the dispersal of Euromaidan actions on January 27th.
2. Journalists facing other types of pressure
Ukrainian journalists are not only repeatedly beaten by the police or by the unknowns, but also face other forms of intimidation, pressure, censorship, cyber attacks and legislative restrictions.
On February 1st, unknown people burnt down a car belonging to Oleg Kryshtopa, Channel 5 reporter.
A few days earlier, on January 29th, unknown persons entered the apartment of Oleksandr Mikhelson, a journalist of the weekly “Ukrainskyi Tyzhden” (the “Ukrainian Week”), showing neither a search warrant, nor their papers.
Independent newspaper Novosti Donbassa was forced to leave premises they rented. According to Aleksei Matsuka, its editor in chief, the landlord didn’t explain the reason for his decision and just terminated the lease.
Local Crimean media received a letter on February 5th in which the local authorities recommend to publish a slogan on media’s front pages saying that Crimean dwellers are “against anarchy and disorder” and oppose “coup d’état”.
On the national level, the Cabinet of Ministers has drawn up a draft decree regulating conditions under which a website could be blocked or closed. The draft decree enumerates types of information subject to sanctions including blocking of sites.
Some media outlets have also suffered from serious cyber attacks. On January 27th the site of the Channel 5 was facing a series of DDoS-atacks. Service provider Divan.tv which broadcasts «Espreso.TV», Channel 5, ТVі and «Hromadske.tv », also suffered from serious DDoS-attacks.
3. Attacks on journalists qualified as «hooliganism» with no adequate sanctions against the perpetrators
Journalists who have faced severe beatings often have little chance to bring the aggressors to justice. The actions of the perpetrators sometimes requalified into “hooliganism”.
The attack on Tetiana Chornovol, an activist of the Euromaidan (Ukrainian mass antigovernment protests) and a journalist, who was severely beaten on December 24th, was qualified as hooliganism, according to Ukrainian prosecutor’s service. The reason for the beating was that she had infringed the car traffic rules and “cut off” another car, the prosecutor says.
4. Journalists facing charges of participating in mass riots
As many protesters have been put in pre-trial jail these days, many of them have their cases re-qualified into “participation in the mass riots”, which can lead them to up to 6-year imprisonment.
Volodymyr Karagyaur, a cameraman of Spilno TV, was released for home arrest but still faces charges of participating in mass riots. He was detained by the police on the gas station and faces charge of “supplying gas for Molotov cocktails” to the protesters.
Anton Kudinov, a journalist at Prykhovana pravda (Concealed truth), a journalist investigative project, was also released for home pre-trial arrest but still faces “mass riot” accusations. He was detained when he was approaching Berkut (police special unit) with a white flag calling for cease-fire.