Journalistsremain non-combatants that do not take direct part in theantigovernment protests in Ukraine, but carry out their professionalactivity. Still, they face violence against them in the ongoingclashes, whereas the Ukrainian publicauthorities are failing to protect journalists and guarantee themsafe working conditions. Moreover, media representatives appear toget most of their injuries following deliberate actions of the localpolice officers, hooligansor private guard of the Party of Regions.
Deplorably,VyacheslavVeremiy, a correspondent of “Vesti”newspaper, died early morning on February 19 in Kyiv EmergencyHospital from grave injuries he received. The night before, thecorrespondent and his colleague Oleksiy Lymarenko were attacked byunidentified men with bats and arms in helmets, camouflage and blackmasks when coming back home in a taxi. Vyacheslav received a gunshotwound to the chest. Reportedly, thisgroup of hooliganswas in the street near the policedepartment that night and, undercover of police, repeatedly attacked citizens and activists. Apparently, thesame people killed a few activists of Euromaidan.
Somejournalists got injured following targeted shots by police officersdespite they were wearing press badges or bright vests: YurijUvarov, a cameraman of AssociatedPress, who got a rubber bullet under eye; Oleksandr Ratushnyak, afreelance photographer;Igor Lypynsky from Ukraine TV channel; and OleksijByk from Glavkom, to name a few.Olesandr Mykhelson, ajournalist of Ukrainsky Tyzhden, was beaten up by hooligans, eventhough he showed a press card to them. Evidently, the publicauthorities otherthan police flooded the citywith hooligans called“titushky”, who are paid for pogroms,beating of protesters and journalists andeven killing them.
Duringthe rally dispersal at the Odessa RegionalState Administration onFebruary 19, titushkyhave beaten up twocamera operators of “Inter”TV channel Igor Mehonoshyn and of 6 TVchannel Igor Kazanzhy.
Maxim Trebukhov, a photojournalist of LB.ua,was beaten up by 6 guards of the Party ofRegions nearby its office on LypskaStreet. “I was filming.They jumped on meand started tobeat – in thehead, face, body,fortunately, was protected by armor vest” – saysMaxim. Another photojournalistbehind him attempted to help, but the guards broke his camera.
Severalteams of 5thTV Channel faced violence today as well. First, a journalistAzadSafarov and an accompanying cameraoperator werebeaten up by “Berkut” riot police, and their professionalequipment was smashed, regardless the factthat they shouted they were journalists.The police attempted to detain them. Second, a journalist Eugene Tahanovych and a cameraman Leonid Taranenko,subjected to attack on February 18, bythe unidentified hooligans dressedin sportswear.Their camera was also crashed. Thirdly, ajournalistOlga Petriv anda cameraman IvanNakonechny got their camera smashed. All of them underwent a medicalexamination and lodged complaints to the police on crimes againstthem.
Anotherphoto correspondent, EugeneKotenkofrom “HolosStolytsi”, was attacked by the police officers at Lavra descent. He saw20 police buses in form,but without anyrecognition badges. Havingnoticed the correspondent witha camera, the officers attackedhim, wrung his hands, crashed his camera and threatened.
“Berkut”officers often used force to make the journalists destroy theinformation filmed, as in case with other journalists and photocorrespondents, including Sergiy Golovnev and Maxym Kudymets fromInsider online-edition, Volodymyr Borodin from Vesti newspaper, IvanLiubysh-Kirdej from 1+1 TV channel, and Victor Gatsenko, a From-UAphotographer.
Therebythe Ukrainian law enforcement authorities failto protect journalists and guarantee them safe working conditions.Instead, they often deliberatelyprevent journalists from conveying reliable and highly importantinformation to the public, as the above-described actions of policeofficers prove. The responsibility for these striking cases lies withthe Ukrainian Government.
TheMedia Law Institute (MLI) is a civil society organization and thinktank, created in 2005. Ourmission is contributing to the development of the society of activecitizens through support to civic initiatives; impartial andprofessional media expertise; elaboration and implementation of highquality information law; education; legal protection of journalistsand citizens` rights; promoting freedom of speech and fundamentalhuman rights.