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Freedom of Speech Barometer for April 2020

10.05.2020, 21:44

In April, IMI experts recorded 18 cases of violations of freedom of speech in Ukraine (19 in January, 18 in February, 25 in March). 16 of them involved physical aggression against journalists.

These are the figures of the monthly monitoring held by the Institute of Mass Information "Freedom of Speech Barometer".

The highest number of violations of journalists' rights in April was recorded in the categories of “obstruction to lawful journalistic activity” (9 cases) and “beatings, attacks” (4 cases).

In particular, journalists faced the most of pressure, as they were covering lockdown: 12 cases of the total number of violations recorded.

For example, in the Kyiv Hydropark, the TV crews with ZIK and Espresso TV were attacked by unknown men during inspection of quarantine, and the law enforcement officers attacked journalist with Hromadske Bohdan Kutepov in front of the Cabinet of Ministers.

In addition, IMI records facts of obstruction to journalistic activity exerted by local authorities, which did not allow journalists to attend their sessions, which, in particular, took place in public places. The authorities justified that denial to provide access with quarantine measures. At the same time, journalists claimed of selectivity in admission to the session and failure to provide the mass media with information by other means.

Also this month, we observed two incidents involving the representatives of churches and in both cases it was Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarcate: in Odesa, a security guard at the Ilyinsky Monastery of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarcate attacked Vladyslav Shvets, photojournalist for the USI online media. Vladyslav Shvets was filming a report on preparations for Easter. The guard pushed him and knocked the camera off his hands.

Archimandrite Mykyta, Secretary of the Chernivtsi-Bukovyna Consistory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarcahet, came to the Young Bukovynian editorial office when he learned about the publication saying that the head of the diocese had pneumonia, he coughed inside the editorial office, and then asked the Security Service of Ukraine to close the newspaper Young Bukovinian for absolute quarantine. 

This month, 14 male journalists and six female journalists faced pressure.

Violations were recorded in 11 regions of Ukraine. Most violations were recorded in Kyiv (five) and Dnipropetrovsk region (three), and in other regions there were two and one case.

Thus, since the beginning of the year, IMI has recorded a total of 80 violations of freedom of speech, 40 cases of obstruction, 10 cases of beatings and seven - threats.

 Physical aggression

Beating - 4

  1. Journalists with ZIK were attacked in Kyiv, as they covered lockdown

02.04.2020 In Kyiv, on April 2, some unidentified men attacked a TV crew of ZIK TV, as the journalists were filming the report on observance of quarantine at sports grounds in Kyiv. As this was reported on the ZIK website.

Several  young persons assaulted the journalists with ZIK in Hydropark, as the journalist Alla Zhiznevska asked them to explain why they came to the sports ground, which is prohibited during quarantine period.

"Today, we have been inspecting the city. We were to check, whether people abode by quarantine measures, how they behaved, whether they respected the safe distance. But some bad scene happened at Hydropark, as Alla Zhiznevska said.

The video showed a strong guy pushing the journalist and assaulting the cameraman. The assaulter also claimed he "not to give a damn about the ban" and was "not to give a damn about the law", because the sports grounds in the park was the only place where he could take exercises.

Journalists of ZIK TV channel have addressed to the Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov and the mayor Vitaliy Klitschko and demanded to probe in.

The journalist Alla Zhiznevska filed complaint to the Dniprovsky district police department in Kyiv.

After the attack, the journalist complained of back pain: “When 150 kilograms of weight pushes you in the back and hits you, this is very unpleasant feeling. Actually, we called the police, and then everyone rallied around us. There were at least 30 men who swore and threatened to pick up my phone and to cause physical harm to me and to drive me out of there.”

  1. In Kyiv, an unknown person threw an Espresso camera into the Dnieper and knocked down a journalist

02.04.2020 In Kyiv, on April 2, an unidentified man attacked the TV crew of "Espresso.TV", as this was reported on its website.

Two journalists and the operator were preparing the story about observance of quarantine by food establishments in Hydropark.

"An unknown man ran toward the TV crew immediately after Ilya Yevlasha started air broadcast, he grabbed the camera and threw it into the Dnieper," the report reads.

At this time, journalist Dina Zelenskaya tried to capture the attacker on her mobile phone.

"When the man noticed that he was being shot, he ran toward, knocked the young girl to the ground and grabbed her hair. Then he pulled out her phone and threw it in the river too," the editorial office reported.

Police arrived at the scene, but the perpetrator fled away.

The TV channel published a photo of the attacker and asked to help to identify the man and inform the editorial office by phone +380 68 961 0188..

  1. In Donetsk region militia fighters fired shots at cars with journalists of Ukraina TV Channel

07.04.2020  In Donetsk region, the militia fired at a car with the crew of Ukraina TV channel. No one was injured as a result of the incident. Oleksander Makhov, journalist with Ukraina TV Channel told it on his Facebook page.

According to him, the projectile was dropped purposefully from the drone.

"Militia fired at a car with reporters of Ukraina TV channel. They purposely targeted the vehicle. Because the shooting happened at the moment, when the car stopped in a special place near the position. The car was marked as civilian. The invaders dropped a missile from a drone that fell one meter from the car. The projectile crashed into several small fragments. A fragment broke through the side window of the car. Several other fragments hit the carrosserie, "he wrote.

There were in the car Oleksander Makhov, operator, driver and press officer of the subdivision, who accompanied the TV crew. After the shelling, they immediately sheltered in a dugout.

Commenting the incident to IMI, Oleksander Makhov said that the shelling took place near the city of Krasnogorivka.

  1. The police attacked Bohdan Kutepov, who was holding a rally near the Cabinet of Ministers

29.04.2020 On April 29 under the Cabinet of Ministers in Kyiv, the police beat up a citizen journalist with Hromadske, who was on live standup and broke his equipment, as Hromadske reported it.

The incident occurred during the protest rally of entrepreneurs community under the Cabinet of Ministers, the businessmen came to contest several restrictions measures imposed under lockdown.

The journalist Bohdan Kutepov together with his colleague Mykyta Mekenzin stood on the hill in the park in front of the Cabinet of Ministers and covered the protest rally. Reporters were approached by several TOR police officers (a patrol police unit for enforcement of public order) and told them to leave the scene. Kutepov explained that he had a "service necessity" to take ppictures from the place where protest was best seen. Instead, the law enforcement officers used force to push them out.

Kutepov also asked why they should leave that place, to which the police officer said: "You either take away it (the camera. - Ed. ), or I’ll break it." Saying these words, they lashed out at the journalists and kicked them out of the lawn. The incident happened while being shot live.

Then, the police got indignant that the journalist continued to shoot, they threatened him to break the camera. So they broken the stabilizing device.

The live broadcast had to be interrupted. The journalists called the police and filed complaint. Kutepov expects the law enforcement officers to reimburse the cost of damaged equipment and apologize for the attack.

Threats - 2

  1. The mayor of Cherkasy threatened journalists of the TV channel "VIKKA" to turn hands "for gestures

02.04.2020 Cherkasy Mayor Anatoliy Bondarenko threatened the TV crew of the local opposition TV channel VIKKA to "turn out their hands", as he saw their gestures at a meeting of the executive committee, as Yulia Donets, a journalist with the VIKKA TV channel, told IMI in the Cherkasy region.

The incident occurred on April 2 at a meeting of the Cherkasy Executive Committee where they considered changes to the budget and socio-economic development program. 

Oleksandr Yatsenko, Director of the Housing and Communal Services Department, spoke on necessity to allocate funds from the reserve fund for the purchase of coffins, protective suits and packages (for burials) for socially vulnerable groups. 

It was during Yatsenko's speech that the mayor addressed the journalists of the VIKKA TV channel, noticing their gestures.

"Don't show it like this, please," he said emotionally. "Don’t you have any shame?" - Anatoly Bondarenko went on and called broadcaster the lapdog media.

At the end, the mayor said he would "turn out the hands" to the channel's operator.

Journalist Yulia Donets said that they often communicated in sign language, signaling when to record some particular frame.

"During the filming, me as a journalist, I usually communicate with the cameraman in sign language. In this way I signal to my colleague when to turn the camera on or off. Yesterday during the report of the head of the housing and communal services, coronavirus, so as not to shout at the operator all over the hall, I, as usual, gestured for him to film the official's comment.

  1. The UOC-MP asks the SBU to close the editorial office of the Young Bukovynian for "complete quarantine"

30.04.2020 Archimandrite Mykyta, Secretary of the Chernivtsi-Bukovyna Consistory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarcahet, came to the Young Bukovynian editorial office when he learned about the publication saying that the head of the diocese had pneumonia, he coughed inside the editorial office, and then asked the Security Service of Ukraine to close the newspaper Young Bukovinian for absolute quarantine.

This complaint was due to the fact that on April 29 the website reprinted the report from the site Religiyna Pravda (Religious Truth), which, citing its own sources, said that the head of the Chernivtsi-Bukovynian Diocese of the UOC-MP Metropolitan Meletius and a number of clergy had pneumonia.

The same report, with reference to Religious Truth, was reprinted on April 29 by other local online media outlets.

The correspondent of Young Bukovyna asked the diocese to comment on this situation. However, their request was not answered by the diocese, although they read the message.

In addition, the newspaper reported, that day Archimandrite Mykyta paid visit to the editorial office of Molodyy Bukovynets, "where, filming on video, he demonstratively coughed at the employees of the institution and behaved with insolence."

After visiting the editorial office, the archimandrite wrote a complaint to the Security Service of Ukraine saying that "yesterday he learned in the pages of the Molody Bukovynets newspaper that he had contracted COVID-19" and that he had "contacted the editor-in-chief and others." At the same time, he "regretted and repented of his act" and promised not to endanger anyone anymore.

At the same time, Mykyta called on the SBU to send "representatives of the relevant services to the editorial office to check the epidemiological situation in the editorial office building."

"If necessary, one should take measures to disinfect the premises and close the institution to full quarantine," the archimandrite's letter reads.

The editorial staff of Molody Bukovynets found such actions of Archimandrite Mykyta inadmissible.

Damage to journalists' property - 1

  1. In Kyiv region, someone broke window of a journalist's house and threw Molotof’s cocktail inside

25.02.2020 At Tetiiv (Kyiv region), on April 25, some unknown people smashed windows in a home belonging to a local journalist and projected Molotov cocktail inside. This was reported on the website of the police of the Kyiv region.

There was no ignition and no one was injured. The Tetievsky Police Department Investigation Team examined the scene, the experts seized a paving stone and 1.5 liter polypropylene bottle partially filled with a gasoline-stained liquid. 

According to the victim, he attributes the attack to his professional activity.  

Criminal proceedings under part 1 of Art. 347-1 ("Deliberate destruction or damage to journalist's property") of the Criminal Code was opened. The police probes into the case.

As the local branch of party Svoboda claimed on its Facebook page, the attack targeted the house of its activist, representative of the press service of Tetiiv district organization of VO“ Svoboda ” Igor Savluk.

The attack would be related to the conflict surrounding the landfill being transferred from Lviv to Tetiyiv.

As it is noted in the message, deputies of the Tetiiv municipal council, on the initiative of the faction of Svoboda VO seized Kiev regional prosecutor's office, police and Ecology and natural resources administration, requesting them to probe into the case of transfer of the waste to Tetiiv landfill from  Lviv.

“Our activists have the impression that someone is really trying to halt the investigation” .Svoboda said that Igor had been repeatedly threatened due to his stance as to Lviv landfill.

 Obstruction of lawful journalistic activity - 9

  1. In Dnipropetrovsk region, journalists were not allowed to attend the City Council session due to lockdown

03.04.2020 Journalists of Kamyansk editions Pylny Poglyad Valentyn Figol and Sobytie Denys Kravets were not allowed to attend the extraordinary session of the city council on April 3. Valentyn Figol told it IMI representatives in Dnipropetrovsk region. However, the TV crew of municipal TV channel was let in.

"The head of the city executive committee Svitlana Kolesnichenko came to us and explained:" Don't get it as an offense, we are forced to limit the number of people admitted to the session hall, because we must comply with the requirements for the distancing of people, so we do not let in anyone beyond councilmen. " We stood there and looked: there really was no one but the deputies - neither the public, nor the directors of utility companies, nor state employees. But they let in the TV crew of the municipal television MIS-TV, "Valentyn Figol said.

According to the journalist for the site Pigny Poglyad, the session was to approve the allocation of 13 and a half million hryvnias for measures to fight the spread of coronavirus.

The journalist told, the council failed to set up online broadcast of the extraordinary meeting. The press service did not send any materials on the results of the session.

"As of Friday evening (April 3 - Ed.) no official information about the session was received. MIS-TV laid out its story by pieces. Those who did not attend the session, had not any idea about the session. I consider this is an alarming trend, " Valentin Figol commented.

Journalists did not filed complaint to the police.

  1. The chairman of the Kakhovka regional council didn't allow the journalist of "Kakhovka star" to session

04.09.2020 The chairman of the Kakhovsky district council (Kherson region) Tetyana Tertychna denied access to Serhiy Makogon, a journalist with Kakhovska Zorya weekly newspaper, to the session. Serhiy Makohon reported it to the IMI representative in Kherson region.

"At 8 a.m. I came to a sitting of deputies' commissions at the Frunze RBC building. I came in almost without problems. At first, I was asked, who I was and why I came, but they immediately let me in. After the sitting of commission, at 8:40, I went out , I spoke by phone, Tetyana Tertychna was standing at the entry. As I tried to get back to the building, she did not let me in, "- he told.

According to the journalist, the chairman of the district council "referred to some decision of the emergency commission".

"She also told me that the session was held closed-doors and they admit persons in according to the list. She also added that all this was agreed with the police and the prosecutor's office," – Serhiy said.

Earlier in Facebook, Kakhovsky journalist Oleg Baturin reported that he had also not been admitted to the session, citing the decision of the same commission, but later he was allowed to attend the sitting.

"I suggested they to call the police to get me out of the room, or I could call 102 myself so that I was not prevented from performing my direct professional duties. This was in the presence of the chief of the Kakhovka Police Department. Deputy of the district council Valery Saltykov suggested the third option - to let me pass to the balcony. That's what they made, " the journalist wrote.

The IMI lawyer Ali Safarov noted that during quarantine, local authorities might hold some closed door sittings, but the respective decision should be issued by the council, not by the commission. And such secrecy should not  be applied to the press.

"The quarantine regime, including any restrictions of rights and freedoms of citizens, which are aiming to stop spreading of infection, are to be defined by law. In particular, such restrictions may be imposed by local self-governments, by means of its decisions made within its mandate under Article 39 of the Law of Ukraine" On protection of the population against infectious diseases ". However, such decisions should be made by local self-government bodies, not by their subdivisions or working groups, temporary or permanent commissions, etc. Decisions of working groups, commissions, etc. - is only a recommendation for a local government and does not grant rights and responsibilities for third parties, in particular for journalists, "the lawyer said.

In addition, he advised to have in mind that, in accordance with Article 25 of the Law of Ukraine "On Information", the journalists are entitled, among other, to be present in the emergency zone after producing one’s press card. "Any attempt to restrict free speech under the pretext of quarantine are unlawful and may entail legal liability," Ali Safarov added..

  1. The Office of the President of Ukraine explained that journalists were not invited to cover the exchange of prisoners because of coronavirus

17.04.2020 Journalists were not invited to cover the exchange of prisoners, which took place on April 16 in Donbass, because of pandemic of coronavirus COVID-19 and in order to comply with lockdown measures. Media Detector reported it with reference to the press secretary of the head of the President's Office Dasha Zarivna.

"Absolutely all media outlets that expressed a desire to cover the event were present at the previous exchanges. The safety and health of journalists are a priority for us. Therefore, violation of quarantine rules is unacceptable," she said.

Zarivna clarified that the OPU will return to the established order of coverage of exchanges after the quarantine restrictions will be cancelled. "All the journalists will definitely be invited," she added.  

Oleksandr Makhov, journalist with the Ukraina TV channel, said on his Facebook page that during the exchange at least seven different media outlets, including the Rossiya TV channel were present from pro-Russian militants side.

As IMI reported, on March 12, war correspondents for Ukrainian national TV channels appealed to president Volodymyr Zelensky to explain why journalists were not allowed to cover the developments at the frontline in Donbass, as well as why they are hiding the number of attacks by militia targeting the positions of the Ukrainian military.

The video appeal was posted on March 12 by journalists on their Facebook pages, as Detektor Media reported.

The journalists called Volodymyr Zelensky to meet them “without cameras” and discuss the issue with journalists of national channels.

The flashmonb #open your eyes of to the_war_ and # truth about the_war has been joined by correspondents of Ukraina TV channel Tetyaana Uralova, Yegor Loginov, and Oleksiy Kashporovsky; ICTV correspondents Volodymyr Mihaylov and Tetyana Nakonechna; Kanal 5 correspondents Yevhania Kytayeva and Anna Kudryavtseva; The 24th Channel correspondent Yevgeny Nazarenko; 1 + 1 correspondent Natalya Nagorna; Inter correspondent Iryna Baglay; former UATV correspondent Anastasia Fedchenko; former 1 + 1 correspondent and UATV presenter Yevgeny Agarkov.

On March 13, The press center of Joined forces Operation (JFO) informed they d=refused access for the journalists because of shelling in Pisky and Opytne in Donetsk region.

THe JFO HQ said it replying to the inquiry letter from Detektor Media.

"Media representatives who have been accredited in the area of JFO have access to the units and sections and fulfill one's activity with the support of the military. The cases when the journalists were denied were due only to the fact these territories were under fire targetting the emplacements of armed forces of Ukraine (PIsky, Opytne), which caused real threat to the life of media representatives.At present, all groups are working according to their application letters..

  1. In Lviv region the security guard of a shop prevented journalists of Pershyy Zakhidny from work

04.17.2020  In Sambor, Lviv region, a security guard of a supermarket obstructed work of theTV crew of the Pershyy Zakhidny TV channel, the journalists were making a story about non-compliance with quarantine rules in public places. The police instituted criminal proceedings for this fact under Part 1 of Art. 171 ("Obstruction of lawful professional activity of journalists"). This was reported on the website of the Main Directorate of the National Police in Lviv region.

According to the report, on April 17, employees of one of the regional TV channels addressed the Sambir Police Department with a complaint. According to the applicants, on 13 April a security guard at a commercial establishment in the city forbade the operator to videotape the store, which hindered their journalistic activities.

Law enforcement officers probe in the case. The pre-trial investigation is ongoing. 

As the IMI representative in Lviv region found out, the journalist was Orest Drymalovsky from Pershyy Zakhidny TV channel.  

  1. In Odessa, a guard of the monastery attacked a journalist of the online publication "ALL"

04.17.2020 On April 17th, in Odessa, a security guard of monastery of Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchy attacked the photographer for the online  edition USI Vladyslav Shvets, as USI reported.

The journalists Anna Pokrovska and Vladyslav Shvets were filming a report on Easter preparation and entered the backyard of the monastery church where the service was held. The security guard tried to prevent them, and after the journalists had finished shooting and left the territory, he approached Vladislav Shvets, pushed her and knocked out the camera.

Police came to the scene. The investigator took the complaint of obstruction to professional activity of journalist.

The church superiors, lawyers and some MPs also came to the scene.

Immediately after the incident, a representative of the monastery's superiors apologized to the journalists. "But the diocese lawyer acted aggressively and claimed that the monastery was closed, which is not true. The service was held there, and the correspondents with USI recorded it on video," the newspaper reported.

  1. In Kryvyi Rih, journalists were pushed out of the territory of the City Council, in the yard of which the session was to take place

22.04.2020 In Kryvy Rih (Dnipropetrovsk region),the representatives of the Municipal Guard pushed journalists from the Pershy Kryvorizky website from the courtyard of the executive committee of the city council, where meetings of standing deputy commissions are held, and at 11:00 a plenary session was to take place. This was reported on the website of the Pershy Kryvorizky.

At first, a man with a Yuriy Rudenko badge, the Municipal Guard, asked reporters to measure the temperature, and when the journalists went to the thermoscreening point, they did not measure the temperature, but presented them a piece of paper that said "Anti-epidemic order in the executive committee" afterwards the journalists were asked to leave the territory of the courtyard of the executive committee.

People in the uniform of employees of the Municipal Guard forcibly pushed out from a courtyard the journalists.

Police officers were present at the scene and failed to react to.

At the same time, journalists of the Rudana municipal broadcaster were allowed to attend the session.

  1. In Mykolaiv, journalists weren't allowed to the City Council on meeting on redistribution of the budget

23.04.2020 In Mykolaiv, the security of city council didn't allow the journalists of several local editions to the meeting of the deputy commission of city council where they had to discuss questions of redistribution of the budget for fight coronavirus disease COVID-19. This was reported by "Inshe TV", journalist of which could not attend the event.

According to the newspaper, a security guard of the City Council prevented media representatives from entering the building, saying that it was forbidden in the mayor's department. At the same time, in accordance with the quarantine requirements, the journalists wore face masks and had press cards with them.

Commenting on the incident for the representative of IMI in Mykolaiv region, the secretary of city council Tatyana Kazakova whose subordinates ensured work of deputy commissions, reported that usually, the council broadcasted sittings of commissions online, but this time since the meeting took place not indoors, but in a courtyard City Council, there was no such opportunity. 

According to her, the meeting of the commission was announced in the corresponding section on the website of the Mykolaiv City Council in advance. Tetyana Kazakova says she was shocked by the news that security guards barred the way for the journalilsts. 

"The guards acted in compliance with the instructions regulating the access to the city council during the quarantine. The City Council staff, if necessary, is ready to write the necessary papers for unimpeded access of the media to the meeting," Tatiana Kazakova said.

For her part, the director of department of the mayor of Mykolaiv Yulia Litvinova told that journalists should warn the administration or press service of the City Council about intentions to visit the commission that security guards didn't interfere with their access to the building. 

According to her, it is the first such unpleasant incident involving mass media during quarantine, however now in the city council of Mykolaiv will develop the more effective mechanism of interaction with journalists.

IMI lawyer Roman Golovenko believes that the City Council, given the fact that the meeting was held outside, they could ensure the presence of journalists at least at a distance and in compliance with sanitary norms.

"This is quite a typical case. And before lockdown, there were cases when the denied access to journalists to the meetings of local council commissions. This is difficult to define that such bodies could be considered a collegial subject of power, because they do not make a final decision. In fact, given the fact that the meeting was held outside, the presence of journalists could be ensured at least at a distance and in compliance with sanitary norms, "the lawyer said.

IMI lawyer Ali Safarov noted that in case of restriction of access to the premises of the local self-government body, journalists should be provided with alternative ways of obtaining information. 

"Ukrainian legislation defines certain restrictive measures during quarantine. However, such measures are applied in accordance with the prescribed procedure. In particular, in case of restriction of visits to local government premises, journalists should be provided with some alternative ways of obtaining information. Moreover, arbitrariness on the part of specific executors should be avoided,  in particular by security guards of local self-government bodies",- the lawyer said.

Ali Safarov reminded that obstruction of journalists is a crime and entails liability established by the Criminal Code of Ukraine.

  1. "StopCor" reported that in Vinnytsia region the police confiscated videos from journalists

04.27.2020 StopCor news portal reported that in Vinnytsia region, on April 27, police officers seized video footage of its TV crew near the home of Yuri Pedos, chief of the Vinnytsia Central Police Department, as it is said on StopCorruption website.

According to StopCor journalist Artem Polikovsky, the police seized a camera and a memory card.

"They are seizing the camera with a card by demand of Yuri Pedos," he said.

According to the edition, the TV crew came to film the estate that the official failed to declare in order to take a picture and ask him to comment it on. 

"At first, Pedos spoke and then went on shouting." And why do I have to speak of my godfathers to you? And I got wind that you have a drug here - 10 grams of amphetamine, "he told the journalist," as StopCor reported.

According to Vinnytsia.today , the head of the main administrationof the police in Vinnytsia region Yuri Pedos claimed that StopCor's journalists are illegally surveilled his family and he found this activity as provocation.

"Due to the fact that lately, some sponsored journalists sully my good name, in fact, they illegally collect information about my family, they distort information, voice unfounded accusations of undeclared property, me personally, I seized the National Agency on Prevention Corruption, asking to launch integral verification" , - he said.

He also reported that he seized the prosecutor's office complaining of violation of privacy of his family.

"Today's illegal actions of obviously sponsored journalists against my relatives near the house where my family lives have led to the deterioration of the health of my wife and mother, who had a hypertensive crisis, the children were traumatized, the youngest daughter had bleeding from her nose - in this regard, my reaction, first of all as husband, father and son, will be unflinching! " - he said.

  1. In Dnipropetrovsk region, journalists were not allowed to attend the City Council session

04.28.2020 On April 28, journalists were not allowed to attend the session of the Pavlograd City Council (Dnipropetrovsk region), Behemot edition reported. 

According to the newspaper, the journalists, except some selected, were not allowed even with the assistance of the police officers, who drew up a report on a criminal offense. The security guard of the City Council explained the denial of access by the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, he did not show the police or journalists any orders or regulations on the basis of which journalists were not allowed to attend the plenary session.

Journalists of the sites Behemot and Nash Pavlograd filed complaint about obstruction of work to the police. The policeman drew up reports. 

According to the editor of the site Nash Pavlograd Eduard Stank, the councilmen were to redistribute UAH 30 million of budget funds at the session the City Council.

Censorship. Access to information

Censorship - 1

  1. Anchorperson Yanina Sokolova found that Akhmetov's TV channel suspended its broadcast after its program about Ermak. The channel denied it.

06.04.2020 The anchorperson Yanina Sokolova reported that the TV channel "Ukraine 24" temporarily suspended the broadcast of her program "Are you not ashamed, aren’t you?" after the broadcast of MP Geo Leros speaking on the "Ermak’s tapes". The press service of Media Group Ukraine told the publication that the decision was not related to the content of the program, as Detektor Media reported.

"I have never been suspended so quickly. Yesterday this was the third issue of the program "Are you not ashamed, aren’t you?" We talked about some uncomfortable things. Investigation in activity of Ukrspirt. Reduction of the budget for culture, education, youth, sports and social payments. And at the end, Geo Leros was on the air and told something about Ermak, his methods of revenge and Deniska's tapes, "Yanina Sokolova said on Facebook.

She said that the day after the broadcast, the channel reported that the project would be frozen until the fall, allegedly due to quarantine.

The MP Geo Leros, who released compromising videos involving the brother of the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Denis Yermak, said: "I have never seen such an absurdity. Now I understand why all major TV channels are silent about Yermak's films.It was sufficient to come out for me on the air and the democracy was over. "

The TV presenter was also surprised that Savik Shuster's program and other projects on the channel were not suspended.

"I don't know if we will come out on the channel in the fall. We had an open and trusting relationship, cemented by an editorial non-interference agreement," Yanina Sokolova wrote.

She added that together with the team she will create the next issue of the project on her own and release it on YouTube.

The press service of Media Group Ukraine told that the decision was not related to the content of the program. And they explained the reasons for temporarily suspension of the project on the channel "Ukraine 24" explained earlier in the press release: to the studio, citing the need for self-isolation. " 

At the same time, another program of Yanina Sokolova will continue to be aired on the channel - "Evening with Yanina Sokolova", the press service reported.

At the same time, a Media Detector source in Media Group Ukraine said that the decision to stop "Are you not ashamed, aren’t you ?" was made because the project is expensive to produce, but has low TV ratings - lower than Savik Shuster's reruns. 

Legal pressure

Other types of legal pressure - 1

  1. The mayor of Kremenchuk asked the SBU to check the newspaper "Program Plus". Journalists reported pressure

08.04.2020 Mayor of Kremenchuk (Poltava region) Vitaliy Maletskiy appealed to the SBU requiring them to verify the activities of the Programa Plus weekly newspaper and the journalist Oleksander Kurylov. The local journalist community accused the mayor of making pressure on mass media and called on to stop persecuting the press for criticism. This is the message of an open letter signed by Kremenchug journalists addressed to Vitaly Maletsky.

The mayor addressed a request to the SBU on April 6, at the meeting of the HQ on liquidation of the consequences of the biomedical emergency, discussing the publications of Oleksander Kurylov.

The letter quotes the mayor's phrase:

  • “I want to quote-unquote thank Mr Kurilov.Because of his persistence (in quotation marks), some social projects won’t work with Kremenchuk ”;
  • "If we have been already used to you, to your idiocy already, then people have not been";
  • Now, I ask an official letter to be prepared for my signature and to explain that this person is unsound a little bit ";
  • "Today, after this screed, thousands of people will be left without grocery kits, because he wrote idiotthings";
  • "Just a freak, not a journalist."

“Here is the SBU official, I ask to verify the activity of Programa Plus weekly newspaper as a mass media outlet, the activities of Mr. Kurylov, his labour relations with Mr. Melnyk and all the founders of this newspaper: how it is published, who finances it, how much taxes he paid there and everything else, and I ask that this be an official application documented through live broadcast and mass media. In fact, this is about sabotage, subversive activity of Mr Kurylov, ” Vitaliy Maletsky said.

The journalist community of Kremenchuk has collected signatures under an open letter to the mayor of the city of Vitaliy Maletsky regarding the inadmissibility of his statements on the journalist Kurylov and demanded to stop persecuting him for criticism. The journalists demanded as well to apologize for having voiced public insults of the journalist.

As the IMI representative in the Poltava region told, the reason for such reaction of the mayor was the publication of the journalist from April 5 “Not enough of advertising? Today, Kremenchug officials are promoting themselves thanks to coronavirus pandemic. Picture”.

 Protection of freedom of speech

Authorities' response to violations of freedom of speech - 5

  1. Police opened cases on the fact of attack on journalists ZIK and "Espresso.TV"

03.04.2020 Kyiv police opened criminal proceedings on the facts of attacks on the film crews of ZIK and "Espresso.TV" TV channels. This was reported on the website of the National Police.

Investigators of the Dnieprovsky district Police Department have launched criminal proceedings: two - under Part 2 of Art. 345-1 ("Threat or violence against a journalist") and one under Part 1 of Art. 171 ("Obstruction of lawful professional activity of journalists") of the Criminal code of Ukraine. Offenders face up to five years in prison.

Both cases occurred in the capital's Hydropark, where journalists were preparing stories, and unknown individuals obstructed the filming.

Police also detained a man who attacked a group of ZIK TV channels in the Hydropark.

As IMI reported, on April 2 in Kyiv, unknown men attacked the TV crew of the ZIK TV channel during the inspection of the capital's parks and sports grounds for compliance with quarantine by citizens. 

Kyiv police detained a man who attacked a group of ZIK TV channels in the Hydropark. 

On April 2, in Kyiv, an unknown man attacked the camera crew of the Espresso.TV TV channel: he threw a camera into the Dnieper and knocked down journalist Dina Zelenska.

Bukovina police have opened proceedings on the fact of obstruction of the journalist by parishioners

06.04.2020 Storozhynets police department of the State National Security Service in Chernivtsi region opened a criminal case under Part 1 of Article 171 of the Criminal Code ("Obstruction of lawful professional activity of journalists") for obstructing journalist of Chernivtsi.Online newspaper Halyna Yeremitsa. This was reported to IMI by Halyna Yeremitsa.

Information on the grounds of this offense was entered into the Unified register of pre-trial investigations on March 31.

A pre-trial investigation into the criminal case is underway and all necessary investigative and procedural actions are being carried out, police told the journalist.

As IMI reported, on March 30, in the village of Snyachiv, Chernivtsi region, two parishioners of the Holy Spirit Church of the UOC-MP prevented a journalist from the Chernivtsi.Online newspaper, Halyna Jeremica, who was inspecting churches for compliance with quarantine conditions.

  1. The court ordered house arrest for attacker on the ZIK TV crew

07.04.2020 Dniprovskyi District Court of Kyiv has ordered to place under house arrest until June 3 the man suspected of attacking the TV crew of the ZIK TV channel on April 2 in the Hydropark. This was reported on the website of the Kyiv City Prosecutor's Office.

The man was informed about the suspicion of committing criminal offenses under Part 1 of Art. 171 ("Obstruction of lawful professional activity of journalists"), part 2 of Art. 345-1 ("Threat or violence against a journalist") of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.

As IMI reported, on April 2 in Kyiv, unknown men attacked the camera crew of the ZIK TV channel while inspecting the capital's parks and sports grounds for compliance with quarantine by citizens. 

  1. Police opened a case on the fact of obstruction of journalists of Pershy Kryvorizky

04.23.2020 Kryvyi Rih police opened a criminal case on the fact of obstruction of journalists of the Pershy Kryvorizky, who planned to film the session of the City Executive Committee of the Kryvyi Rih City Council on April 22. 

This was reported on the website of the National Police.

According to the police, employees of the Municipal Guard did not allow journalists to film the session in the yard of the Kryvyi Rih City Executive Committee, which hindered the lawful activities of journalists. 

On this fact the police opened criminal proceedings under Art. 171 of the Criminal code of Ukraine ("Obstruction of lawful professional activity of journalists"). The sanction of the article provides for restriction of liberty for up to three years.     

As IMI reported, on April 22 in Kryvyi Rih (Dnipropetrovsk region), representatives of the Municipal Guard pushed journalists from the Pershy Kryvorizky website from the courtyard of the executive committee of the city council, where the plenary session of the session was to take place. At the same time, journalists of the Rudana municipal broadcaster were allowed to attend the session.

  1. An internal investigation has been launched as to patrolman’s actions who attacked Kutepov

On April 29, 2020, the patrol police launched an official investigation into a police officer who attacked Hromadsky journalist Bohdan Kutepov. This was reported on the Facebook page of the Kyiv Patrol Police.

According to the report, a conflict occurred between a journalist and patrol officers of the battalion of tactical and operational response of the patrol police department in Kyiv during a protest rally near the Cabinet of Ministers.

"Patrolmen asked journalists to go away from the hill near the place of the action. One of the journalists refused to leave the designated area, stayed where he was and continued to broadcast live. A row broke out between the inspector and the journalist. He took his hand and took him away, " the statement reads.

Details of the event are being established. An official investigation has been launched into the policeman's actions.

As IMI reported, on April 29, police attacked Hromadsky journalist Bohdan Kutepov, who was broadcasting live under the Cabinet of Ministers in Kyiv, and broke his equipment.

Interior Ministry spokesman Artem Shevchenko said that the incident with the attack on the journalist should be investigated in detail.

Police are establishing the circumstances of the incident involving Public journalist Bohdan Kutepov in Mariinsky Park.

Reaction of the journalistic community - 4

  1. Media movement and media organizations spoke out against TV lessons on Medvedchuk's pro-Russian TV channels

07.04.2020 Media Movement, Independent Media Council and media NGOs expressed outrage at the government's decision to launch television broadcasts during quarantine among other broadcasters, including the pro-Russian propaganda channels NewsOne, 112 and ZIK.

This is said in their statement, published on April 7, according to Detector Media. 

"We believe that such a decision will significantly harm the information security of Ukraine and the information hygiene of society, as it will significantly expand the impact of Russian and pro-Russian propaganda, including on the younger generation," the statement said.

The statement said that the channels from the so-called Novyny holding, formally owned by Taras Kozak, an MP from the Opposition Platform for Life, were under the direct influence of the party's leader, Viktor Medvedchuk. 

At the same time, the monitoring of the public organization Detector Media shows that most of the Ukrainian TV and radio companies broadcast information on these three TV and radio stations with signs of Kremlin propaganda, sometimes literally repeating the messages of Russian state TV channels. 

These TV channels have repeatedly denied Russian aggression, called for the lifting of sanctions on Russia, recognition of the occupying powers of Donetsk and Luhansk, "peace at any cost" on Putin's terms, and talks between the "Opposition Platform - For Life" and its allies in Russia positioned themselves as an "interparliamentary dialogue."  

A clear example is the recent call from journalists and politicians on these channels to carry out Putin's "plan" to fight the coronavirus epidemic. And also in various programs  they repeatedly aired proposition to demand financial help for fight against a coronavirus to Russia ", - it is told in the statement. 

The authors of the statement also reminded that the National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting has repeatedly declared the actions of these channels illegal and fined them for hate speech and other violations. Recently, the ZIK channel aired a marathon "Odour of Soros", in which misinformation and unethical statements escalated. 

"We urge the authorities to reconsider their decision in the light of the risks it poses. Demonstrating video lessons on these channels will increase their audience at the expense of those people who would not otherwise watch pro-Russian propaganda channels.

We urge other Ukrainian television channels that are not yet participating in the All-Ukrainian School Online project to take part in it, so that the initiators of an important social project do not need the airwaves of TV channels related to Viktor Medvedchuk, "the statement said. 

  1. Media movement urges the media to explain to the audience that it is better to stay at home because of the coronavirus

16.04.2020 Representatives of the Media Movement "Media for Conscious Choice" and media NGOs of Ukraine condemned the call of the Vice-Regent of the Ukrainian Orthodoxe Church of the Moscow Patriarchate Onufriy to parishioners to come to the church service for Easter during the coronavirus outbreak.

This is stated in a statement by the media movement and media organizations, published on April 16.

The media community called on the Ukrainian authorities and the media to inform better citizens about the dangers of such statements of the UOC-MP and the risks of infection in public places in the context of the spread of coronavirus COVID-19.

Here is the full text of the statement:

We, representatives of the Media Movement "Media for Conscious Choice" and media NGOs of Ukraine, condemn the call of the Vice-Regent of the UOC of the Moscow Patriarchate Onufriy to parishioners to come to the church service for Easter during the coronavirus outbreak. We call on the Ukrainian authorities and the media to inform better the citizens about the dangers of such statements of the UOC-MP and the risks of infection in public places in the context of the spread of coronavirus COVID-19.

In connection with the coronavirus pandemic, the government has banned mass events in Ukraine, including religious ones. On the eve of Easter, most church leaders urge believers to stay home and watch worship services online. 

Instead, the head of the UOC of the Moscow Patriarchate, Onufriy, said in an appeal dated April 14, 2020 that everyone could come to the church service and pray outside in accordance with sanitary norms.

We consider such a statement as an attempt at sabotage against the Ukrainian people. On their way to church, parishioners put not only themselves but also their children, parents, neighbors, and health care workers in mortal danger — everyone around them. Thus, all quarantine measures that are forced to harm the economy for the sake of the health of Ukrainians will be leveled. Further spread of COVID-19 in connection with the concentration of people in churches will affect not only the health of citizens, but also the image of Ukraine. A government that fails to meet the challenge of a pandemic risks losing credibility both within the country and among international partners and investors.

We call on the Ukrainian authorities to strengthen public awareness of the need to celebrate Easter at home and not to attend church during a coronavirus outbreak. We understand the delicate situation of the Ukrainian government, which wants to avoid accusations of interfering in the social life of religious communities. But what is happening now is nothing more than an attempt by the Kremlin to shift responsibility for the future deaths of Ukrainian citizens of various denominations to the Ukrainian authorities.  

We ask the Ukrainian media to show social responsibility and tell their audiences about the dangers of violating quarantine. At present, attending church endangers the health and lives of Ukrainians, as well as increases the burden on the economy. Someone has to pay for the treatment of patients, in the case of public funds it is done by taxpayers. Mass infection of believers can have catastrophic consequences.

  1. Journalists of Kremenchuk urged the mayor not to restrict access to session through quarantine

17.04.2020 Journalists of the city of Kremenchuk call on the mayor Vitaly Maletsky not to restrict access to the session of the city council, which is to take place on April 23 at the stadium "Flint-Arena named after Oleg Babayev". This is stated in a statement by journalists published on the site telegraf.in.ua.

The appeal was in response to a statement made by the mayor on April 15 during a meeting of the medical and biological emergency response headquarters. He motivated the intention not to let journalists into the session by security measures during quarantine. 

Journalists do not agree with this motivation.

"We ask you to abandon this intention, as it contradicts the current legislation of Ukraine and the regulations of the Kremenchug City Council," the statement said.

In addition, journalists accuse the mayor of being selective about the media in accessing the session. It was stated in your statement that "journalists will be able to watch the online broadcast provided by our TV and radio company" (ie Kremenchug City TV and Radio Company). Judging by this statement, you intend to selectively restrict access to the city council session, while providing "In accordance with Article 7, Article 7 of this Law, the state guarantees all subjects of information relations equal rights and opportunities for access to information," the statement reads.

Due to the fact that journalists do not see any legal grounds to restrict their right to access the session of the Kremenchug City Council, they are going to "follow the necessary security measures during quarantine, to come to the next session to perform their professional duties." 

"We hope to understand and promote the activities of the media. Attempts to prevent journalists from attending the session will be considered an obstacle to the legitimate professional activities of journalists, for which criminal liability is provided under Article 171 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine," the statement said.

The statement was signed by Lesya Lazorenko, editor-in-chief of the Kremenchug Telegraph weekly, Stanislav Konstantinov, editor-in-chief of the publication, Oleg Bulashev, editor-in-chief of the Kremenchug newspaper, Anna Plaksiy, editor-in-chief of TRK Vizyt, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Thought "Olga Ocheretyana.

  1. The media movement demands to bring to justice the policeman who deliberately attacked Kutepov

30.04.2020 Representatives of the “Media for conscious choice” and media NGOs in Ukraine call to bring to justice the police officer who knowingly and without proper legal grounds used physical force against the journalist with Hromadske Bohdan Kutepov and broke his technique.

We draw attention to the unlawfulness of police actions and deliberate use of physical force against the journalist who was performing his professional duties. The incident occured during a live broadcast held by Bogdan Kutepov. On the same lines, the journalist presented himself to the police and informed that he was on live stand-up. His emotional reaction is not an excuse to use force against him.

We also emphasize this is inadmissible not to complete the investigation into the incident. Accordingly, we recall the previous cases of attacks on journalists by police officers who have not been broght to account in accordance with the Criminal Code of Ukraine. 

We demand that all these cases be properly investigated and that law enforcement officials be held accountable. 

The issue of impunity as such translates in further increasing of violence used against journalists. In addition, it increases the distrust of the mass media and the society towards the so-called "tarnished" reputation of the police.

For example, on December 17, 2019, in Kyiv, the National Guard and police officers broke the camera and glasses of the journalist for Radio Svoboda Serhiy Nuzhnenko. The incident occurred, as the journalist was covering clashes between the law enforcement officers and protesters under the Verkhovna Rada due to new bill on farmland market to be voted in the parliament.  Two other journalists with Hromadske, Victoriya Roshchyna and cameraman Oleksiy Nikulin, got injured amid these clashes. In particular, the journalists suffered from tear gas, which was used by the riot police and protesters. Also someone knocked out the phone from the hands of the journalist, as she was filming the clashes. The protesters threw the tent bars at the journalists. 

However, police have not yet reported about the progress of the investigation and whether the perpetrators of the crime have been identified. Although from the photo posted by Serhiy Nuzhnenko, one could identify a law enforcement officer who impeded his activities.

In addition, the case of the assault on Serhiy Nuzhnenko on March 3, 2018 in Kyiv, near the Verkhovna Rada , has not been investigated yet. Duting the incident a police officer used a gas canister against him and he received chemical burns.

Also uncompleted remain the cases of assault by members of the special police force on journalists Dmitry Replyanchuk and Sergei Lefter on October 24, 2017 in the Svyatoshinsky court of Kyiv. Despite apologies from the police and a promises to investigate it, they remain suspended. We will remind, in April 2018 the lawyer of Dmitry Replyanchuk Lyudmila Lebed declared that the investigation in the case of his beating is conducted superficially, impartially and without the purpose of establishing the guilty, and the prosecutor's office of Kyiv derails the investigation in the case.

We will remind, according to IMI monitoring, in the first quarter of 2020 experts of the Institute of Mass Information recorded 62 cases of violations of freedom of speech in Ukraine. The vast majority of these violations (43) involved physical aggression against journalists.

Law enforcement officers registered 57 criminal proceedings against journalists in the first quarter of 2020: none were sent to court.

In total, during 2019, law enforcement officers registered 259 criminal offenses against crimes against media workers, of which 14 criminal proceedings were investigated and brought to court .

 This study was made possible by the support of the American people through the USAID Media Program in Ukraine, implemented by the international organization Internews Network. The contents are the sole responsibility of the Institute for Mass Information and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID, the US Government or the Internews Network.

 

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