Serious Oppression of Media Freedom in Crimea

March 14, 2014
Given the latest March developments in Crimea, it seems that Ukrainian media spaceand journalists are under all-round assault. Major challenges include numerousattacks on journalists and their abduction, restrictions through accreditation ofmedia for the 16th of March local referendum, along with shuttingoff and blocking of the Ukrainian TV channels in Crimea.

Starting from 1 Marchof 2014 up to now, obstruction of journalistic activity in Crimea accounts formore than 60 cases. Several media outlets – as the state TV and radiobroadcasting company “Krym” and the Center for Investigative Journalism in Simferopol – were seized by the armed men in earlyMarch 2014. A dozen of media representatives were beaten up: for instance, a journalist Andriy Tsaplienko and two cameramen of “Inter” TV channel and ajournalist of online newspaper “Russian Planet” Pavel Nikulin wereattacked in Sevastopol when covering an assault of the Ukrainian military unit No 2355 by Russian forces. Also, two groups of journalists from the Glavkom and Ukrainskyy Tyzhdennews portals were detained and some of them were kidnapped by unidentified menin military uniform at the Crimean checkpoint near Armyansk, on 9 March; mistreated and released two days later. Some local self-defence representatives and armed men threatened journalists, took away their professional equipment and stole information they filmed, as in case with Norwegian journalists from NRK publicbroadcaster, Italian TV channel SKY TG 24 or a Slovak correspondent Jan Husar, on 11-12 March 2014.

As to media coverage of the awaited local referendum, its organizers approved the accreditation procedurefor media representatives, on 11March 2014. Considering a very short period for submitting applications,i.e. until 13 March, a long list of supporting documents and acceptance ofapplications from the registered media outlets only, itseems quite complicated for journalists to comply with the set requirements. Thismight appear an excessive restriction for covering referendum of significantpublic interest, as under the national legislation mass media enjoy a fullright to be at the polling stations without any approval, while in Crimea thisright is limited by the formal accreditation provided to the loyal media only.

Finally, blocked or taken off air in Crimea havebeen the all-Ukrainian TV channels, including “1 +1”, 5thchannel, “Inter”, STB TV channel and TRK “Chernomorskaya”on 6-7 March, and their frequencies were given to the Russian TV channels.Also, the first TV channel of Crimean Tatars ATR was disconnected from the Internet and its website subjected toDDoS–attacks. Thereby local inhabitants were deprived of the right to receiveinformation of public interest from different sources during the ongoing crisisin Ukraine.