IMI: «In May, region with most cases of obstruction to journalists was Mykolayivska oblast»
In May, in Ukraine the journalists’ rights were mostly violated in the form of obstruction – 11 cases and beatings, assaults – 7 cases. The number of cases of obstruction for the second month in a row is almost the same, and the number of beatings and assaults on journalists grew by half. This data was presented in the Institute of Mass Information’s monthly monitoring “Press Freedom Barometer.”
This month, the regions with most cases of obstruction to journalists was Mykolayivska oblast –four cases were registered there. Journalists faced obstruction from civilians and officials – their cameras pried away, forbidden to take footage, chased away from sessions of city councils, and pushed away. For instance, one official of Mykolayiv city council was chasing journalists away from sessions of the city council, and another one was pushing them out of her office and calling it her ‘classified premises’.
In Donetska oblast, three cases were registered, in Dnipropetrovska oblast – two cases. Unidentified men, civilians, politicians and a judge were obstructing journalists. In particular, in the Economic court of Dnipropetrovsk, a judge prohibited a journalist to take photo and video footage on his equipment. Khersonska and Ivano-Frankivska oblasts each had one cases registered: police officers and unidentified persons were violating journalists’ rights there.
In May, IMI registered a growing number of beatings and assaults on journalists – 7 cases (April – 4, March – 2, February – 1, January – 4). Each of the seven cases took place in a different oblast – in Khmelnytska, Rivnenska, Odeska oblasts, in Zaporizhzhia, Kyiv, Kharkiv and Kherson. It was mostly unidentified persons and civilians that were attacking and beating journalists. An official in Khmelnytska oblast prosecutor’s office also was among the attackers: she intentionally slammed a door at the journalist’s hand to stop her from entering the building.
The number of threats and intimidations in May stayed on the same level as in April – 5 cases (April – 5, March – 3, February – 5, January – 3). The IMI experts registered threats in Kyiv, in Odeska and Mykolayivska oblasts. The journalists were threatened in a personal conversation, by email and by phone. Unidentified persons and civilians uttered those threats.
For the first time since the beginning of the year, IMI registered political pressure on journalists – 3 cases, which were linked to the website ‘Myrotvorets’ publishing personal data of journalists, who had been “accredited” with the so called “LPR/DPR”. The fact of this information made public caused broad resonance not only in Ukraine, but also abroad. Journalists of Ukrainian and foreign media outlets, as well as representatives of Ukrainian and international media organizations addressed the website ‘Myrotvorets’ with a demand to immediately take down the information about personal data of journalists "accredited” with the self-proclaimed “LPR/DPR” and encouraged the authorities to launch a criminal case based on the fact of the violation of the Law of Ukraine on protection of personal data, exerting pressure and threatening the journalists on the list.
It should be noted that the website ‘Myrotvorets’ published the lists with the journalists’ data three times. For the first time, it happened on May 7, for the second time – on May 20 and for the third time, on May 24. Based on the fact of the publication, a criminal case was launched under part 1 of Article 171 (Obstruction to lawful professional activities of journalists) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.
As a result of this disclosure, Ukrainian journalists began to receive threats. IMI is aware of more than 10 journalists, including foreign ones, who reported such threats, but not all of them are ready to talk about it publicly. IMI provided assistance to three of these journalists.
In Crimea occupied by Russia, in May IMI registered 5 cases of violations of freedom of press and journalists’ rights (April – 8, March – 2, February – 3, January – 4). The pressure is coming predominantly from the Federal Security Service of Russia (FSB) and by the Crimean Prosecutor’s Office controlled by the Kremlin.
For instance, FSB keeps pressuring journalists, in particular, through their families and relatives. Radio Liberty reviewer Mykola Semena is being accused of separatism by the Crimean authorities controlled by Russia, and his wife and one of his sons were summoned for interrogation to FSB.
Also, the access to the website Krym.Realii has been blocked on the peninsula under the accusations for calls to mass disorders and extremist activities.
Also, one case of violation of the journalists’ rights was registered in the territories occupied by “DPR” and “LPR”: the separatist website Okkupatsia.net published the lists compiled as of October 10, 2014, of journalists of Ukrainian and foreign mass media, who were covering events in Donbas and in the ATO zone. The list contained dozens of surnames of journalists of the TV channels “Inter”, 1+1, STB, ICTV, Hromadske.TV, Espreso.TV, Channel 5, Channel 24, “Ukraina” and others. The list’s section of foreign journalists included the journalists of the TV channel Al Jazeera, Agence France-Presse, the TV channel VІCE News, the ВВС Corporation, the American TV channel FoxNews and many others. Together with the journalist’s surnames the list contained their contact phones.
This caused indignation in the journalist community. In particular, the editorial staff of TSN made a statement that they are worried by the fact that this website made public the list of Ukrainian journalists accredited by the Ukrainian authorities for work in the ATO zone, as well as by the circumstances of how this information was leaked from databases of the Ukrainian power structures and addressed the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, the Ministry of Defense and the Security Service of Ukraine with a demand to clarify the situation.
The Independent Media Trade Union of Ukraine urged to investigate how the separatists obtained the journalists’ data.
The Security Service of Ukraine claimed it did not publish any lists of the journalists accredited for work in the ATO zone and launched the investigation of the fact of the publication on a separatist website of such a list of journalists.
"Freedom of Speech Barometer" is an analytical product of monthly monitoring of freedom of speech in Ukraine, conducted by NGO "Institute of Mass Information" in support of "U-Media" project, implemented by "Internews Network" supported by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and by support Non-Profit Organization "National Endowment for Democracy» (NED). The "Network of media observers", working within the "Freedom of Speech Barometer" project, funded with support from Freedom House, the international human rights organization, and the Foreign Ministry of Norway.