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Journalists are Purposefully Persecuted in Ukraine

Media Law Institute, February 6, 2014

During the mass protests, whichhave been taking place in Ukraine for the third month, tremendously manyjournalists suffered from the actions of enforcement authority and unidentifiedpeople. It’s about more than 120 media representatives. Some officials makestatments and claim that the journalists being at the epicenter of protests andput themselves under bullets and grenades, therefore, so often become thevictims.

However, in view of all thecircumstances, we argue the opposite – such a great number of injuredjournalists is the result of conscious and purposeful actions of theauthorities against journalists and all the people holding photo or videocameras and recording the events. Journalists play an important role in theconfrontation. They convey information fromthe epicenter of events to viewers, listeners and readers. Thanks to thesephoto and video evidence the public learned about hundreds of cases of human rights violation. Journalists fixillegal actions of the authorities and for that journalists got beaten,arrested and even imprisoned. In particular, the Media Law Institute points at the following examples of deliberateillegal actions against media.

 

Arrests of Journalists

At least four Ukrainianjournalists face criminal charges, for whichimprisonment is foreseen. In particular, such criminal offenses are incriminatedto the operator of Spilno.TV Vladimir Karahyaura, whowas detained on January 19, 2013 at a petrol station onsuspicion of supplying gasoline to manufacture explosive mixtures, accused ofinvolvement in the сivil disorder, which suggests liability for up to 15 yearsin prison. In court, the police did not provide any evidence for his prosecution, but the journalist wascharged with suspicion and,upon the court order, he will be under housearrest. This court order is based only on the evidence of policeinvestigators.

Organization of mass disorder isincriminated to a journalist of the Ukrainian nationalist political party Svoboda”Andriy Loza. He was also arrested on January 19 onHrushevskohoSt. when together with other journalists was on the bus of “Berkut”and was covering the event upon the editorialassignment. Despite the lack of evidence against Andriy Loza, the court hasappointed him detention in custody for two months as a preventive measure.

Another journalist, MarianGabriel, received two months of house arrest in the court. He came under fireand was beaten up by police and arrested on 22 January this year. He is in ahospital in serious condition now.

Eugene Udovychenko, operator ofZaporozhye Regional TV and Radio Company, when filmingon camera suppression of peaceful assembly in Zaporozhye on January 28, was hitby unknown young man and representatives of enforcement authorities. Hisequipment was stolen.

Udovychenko was incriminated anattempted seizure of the administrative building, the commission of resistanceto police officers and a number of other offenses. He is under house arrestnow.

On December 1, 2013 co-founder ofthe newspaper “Faces” Valery Harahutsa was detained and then arrestedfor 2 months. He was charged with participationin riots near the Presidential Administration. Hewas releasedfrom custody lateron personal commitment by the decisionof the Court of Appeal.


Illegaldetention

At least five journalists, while performing their professional duties inJanuary 2014, have been illegally detained by police officers,brutally beaten up, but laterreleased without a charge.

Among them – DmytroBarkar and Igor Iskhakov from RadioLiberty, detained by police on 20 January 2014onHrushevskoho Street in Kyiv and beaten up, then they hadtotestify in a district policedepartment.

Dmitry Dvoychenkov, operator “Espreso.TV”, on January 22 was conducting a live broadcast from the place of confrontationbetween protesters and the special unit “Berkut” when security forcesfirst threw a gas grenade at the crew, and thendetained him to testify.

Got bruises and eye injury on January 23 Andrey Kiselev, aRussian journalist, who covered theriots in the Ukrainian capital tasked byeditors of”Lenta.Ru”. Despite his words that he wasa journalist, he was beaten up by “Berkut”and kept in a paddy wagon. Later on, he was released from the police department thanks tothe intervention of Russia.

The police arrested and laterreleased a photographer of “UKRINFORM”Dmitry Smoliyenko when he was filming the dispersal of Maidan inZaporizhia on January 26, 2014.

 

Assaults by police officersand hooligans

Only in the last ten days ofJanuary 2014, more than 70 journalists got seriouslyinjured in Kyiv, Cherkasy, Kirovohrad, Mykolaiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhiadue to attacks by representatives of enforcementagencies or bullies, despite their having brightinscriptions “Press”and theavailability of press cards. As to severity,these are mainly serious injuries and wounds significantlyaffecting the possibility to carry out activity of journalists. As a result of these cases, journalists began to abandon jackets with “Press” on,as they felt such identification does not provide protection,but rather makes journalists a target.

Thus, during the media coverage nearby theCherkasy Oblast Administration some unidentifiedcivilians detained and severely beaten Oleg Ohilko, managerand operator of the website in Cherkassy 0472.ua. During the clashes at ZaporizhiaRegional State Administration, police officers beat up journalistsValentine Terletsky (TRC “Zaporizhia”),Nikita Shlyahtunov (TV -5 ) and othermedia representatives. In particular, Dmytro Smoliyenko(“UKRINFORM” photographer) gotsmashed his headand hands when he was recording dispersal of peasful assamblyandunknown young man beat up his by bat. Subsequently, police joined beatingphotographer and then, all in blood, he was taken to the district policedepartment. Dmytro says that duringthe beating he shouted that he was a journalist.

 

Aimedshots

About 20 journalists wereseriously injured as a result of traumatic weapons intentional actions of the law enforcement officers. According to journalists,firing on the part of security forces was deliberate, and they shot in the headso that journalists lose their sight.

Among the victims – representativesof TV channels ICTV, 1+1, Inter, Channel 5, journalists covering the develpopments from the Hromadske TV, Spilno.TV, foreign news agencies,journalists, and others. Many of them got damaged their eyes, hands, feet, and equipment byrubber bullets. In particular, have losttheir eyes journalists Yanyk Falkevych from the”Spilnobachennya”– on January 19 hewas hit by a plastic bullet, and Pavel Ivanov from the Ukrainian Youth Information Agency, whichreceived 4 bullets in the face. There is a danger of losing sight for the operator ICTV Vladimir Zinchenko, as a rubber bullet wasshot in his eye when he was covering thesame event on January 19,onHrushevskoho Str.

In addition, Eugene Feldman,Russian photographer of “Novaya Gazeta”,argues that during the clashes on Hrushevskoho he was shot intentionally,because he was not in the firing line, but nearby police and his camera was noticeable. Law enforcement officers also aimed atthe headof journalists and photo reporters from theAssociated Press Efrem Lukatsky, from the “Ukrainsky Tyzhden”Ivan Malko, photographer Vasily Fedosenko from Reutersand other agencies. Igor Demchenko, photographer of online edition of “Svet y Teny”and newspaper “Svoboda”, while filming onJanuary 19th gotlight and noise grenades in his face from “Berkut” officer, although he showed a press card. This has led to severe eye damage of the photographer.

 

Destructionof equipment

At least ten journalists andoperators got intentionally damaged theirexpensive professional equipment and some lost footage information last January.

In particular, on January 22whenan operator of the Inter channel news service DmitryKazantsev was streaming online from Hrushevskoho Street in Kyiv, a”Berkut” officer broke his camera. OnJanuary 26 inZaporizhia, during the clashes photographerof “UKRINFORM ” Dmytro Smoliyenkowitnessed thata “Berkut” officer and a young men trampled his equipment valued at 8000 dollars, although he noted that he wasa journalist.

The MediaLaw Institute notes deliberate obstruction ofthe professional activity of media representatives, who are trying to collect accurate information fromthe scenes, accompanied by a gross encroachment on their lives and health. We also observe violation of journalists’ rights to afair trial and of a number ofprocedural rights that may be the subject of consideration by the EuropeanCourt of Human Rights.

The MediaLaw Institute also underlines that theUkrainian Governmentisfully responsible for the acts or omissions of the lawenforcement officers; and it has the powerof a positive obligation to ensure safe working conditions for journalists.

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