Media Law Institute Statement on Violence аgainst Journalists during Civil Protests

December 2, 2013

Media Law Institute expresses its indignation at brutal assaults on journalists, performing their professional duties, by the Ministry of Interior special unit “Berkut” defendingthe Administration of Ukraine`sPresident building. During the events of 1stDecemberoutside the Presidential Administration in Kyiv,the authorities severely beaten with truncheons and kicked not only those,who provoked the conflict,but also journalists recording the developments. As a result, more than 50 Ukrainian and foreign journalists were injured.Police had clearly seen and understood that these people do not represent a threat, but this did not stop them. In addition to physicalviolence against journalists, their professional equipment – cameras and camcorders – was destroyedas well. The events were recorded in photo and videomaterials, and with eyewitness testimony. In particular, among suffered were journalistsof Reuters, AFP, Ukrainska Pravda, Channel 5, Ukrainsky Tyzhden, LB.UA, UBR, other media outlets.

Some days earlier, journalists subjected to violence by the lawenforcement authorities and provocateurs, the latter reported to have beenorganized by the power to destabilize the situation in the country. For instance, on Friday, 29thNovember,a journalist from Hromadske TV was severely beaten, got his camera and phone crashed. On the weekend, two attacks on journalists of the Channel 5 took place, when unknown personswere throwing stones and sticks, where as  “Berkut” fighters broke thecamera.

Media Law Institute recalls that one of the key missions of police is to ensure personalsecurity of citizens, protection of their rights, freedoms and legitimate interests. As the law states, recourse to force shall be reasonable under relevant circumstances and proportionate to the threats. It appearsevident that journalists, whowere recording the developments forobjective coverage, did not constitute any threat to life and health of police officers or citizens, and therefore the use of force against journalists is an obstruction to their professional activities, for which there is criminalliability.

Media Law Institute urges the public authoritiesto stop violence against journalists immediately, to investigate crimes and compensatematerial and moral damage sufferedby victims. We call on the internationaljournalist community to support their colleagues and to condemn the actions of the Ukrainianauthorities.