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Freedom of Speech Barometer for January 2023

03.02.2023, 16:49

In January, IMI experts recorded 10 crimes against freedom of speech in Ukraine. Nine of them were committed by Russia against media and journalists.

The Russian crimes include kidnapping, firing at and wounding journalists, cybercrimes, as well as disabling Ukrainian broadcasting and the media closing down due to the Russian Federation's war against Ukraine.

At the same time, IMI recorded one freedom of speech violation for which Ukrainian citizens are responsible. This is a case of online pressure.

These are the monitoring data by the Institute of Mass Information.

This month, journalist, author, restaurateur from Odesa, Ihor Teryokhin, was killed in action. He had been defending Ukraine from Russian occupiers since the first days of the full-scale invasion. Ihor worked at TRC "RIAK" and was a member of the "Hlas Media Group" team. He had studied winemaking at the Odesa National Academy of Food Technologies, eventually becoming a restaurateur.

According to IMI, Ihor Teryokhin is the 44th media worker to die as a result of Russian aggression in Ukraine. Eight of them died in the course of their journalistic work, 36 died as combatants or were killed by Russian shelling, not in the line of journalistic duty.

In January, Bild reporter Bjorn Stritzel was injured by shrapnel in a Russian shelling attack on Druzhkivka town (Donetsk oblast). Stritzel was sitting by the window when an explosion went off in the town, so he was slightly injured by a glass shard. The journalist reported that he had gotten a cut on the forehead while having dinner at his hotel. The Bild team was in Druzhkivka, filming a report.

In Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, two foreign filming crews and one Ukrainian crew came under Russian fire. These were the crews of "Dom", the French TMC, and the Czech Česká Televize. Neither crew was injured.

According to Ukrainian war correspondent, Česká Televize fixer Anastasia Zhuk, the Russian military deliberately shelled a spot near Bakhmut (Donetsk oblast) where their crew was working. The journalists themselves and their cars were marked with "PRESS" stickers. Anastasia says that before the attack, there was a drone hovering over them. The shell hit the road 20 meters away from the journalists' car. The journalists were unharmed, but they were frightened.

January saw reports of Anatoliy Garagatyi, 69, a local blogger from the Savyntsi hromada (Kharkiv oblast), being kidnapped. The man was detained back in May 2022. The Russian occupiers kept him in custody for over three months. In March 2022, he filmed a Russian tank convoy entering Savintsy and posted the video on social media. The man was accused of helping the UAF aim their fire, tortured with tasers, had a sack thrown over his head. He was kept in Balaklia, in a detention ward of the local police department. On September 4, two days before Balaklia was liberated, Anatoliy Garagatyi and one of his cell mates were unexpectedly released. At the same time, the Russians threatened to kill the blogger if he picked up a video camera even once.

Among cybercrimes IMI recorded an attack on Ukrinform. According to the State Special Communications Service, the news agency's website may have been hacked by the Sandworm group, which is associated with the Chief Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces (GRU).

Another case of Internet pressure concerned Tetyana Mykytenko, who runs the "Raguli" blog. She restricted the access to the content on her YouTube due to bots attempting to block the channel. The complaints resulted in YouTube blocking her content and sending her a strike. According to Tetyana, the blocked videos included an episode of "Chytanka" dedicated to Todos Osmachka's "Rotunda of Murderers" – a book about the crimes of Stalin's regime – where she compared Stalin to Putin. Her video about Russian journalist Alexei Venediktov, where she explained why she believed he works on the Kremlin's payroll, was also flagged.

The newspaper "Kolos" temporarily closed down for 2023 due to lack of funding. The newspaper's editor-in-chief, Leon Kondratyuk, announced this in the last issue (December 22, 2022).

The freedom of speech situation in Ukraine for which Ukrainian citizens are responsible

In January, IMI recorded one freedom of speech violation – online pressure.

Unknown persons have created a Facebook page for posting allegations against the online publication "Chetverta Vlada". The media considers it manipulation, lies, and gossip around the team's public reports, as well as revenge by a former state official. The Facebook page mostly criticizes the agency's financial policy. However, the publication posts all information about their funding on their website. The "Chetverta Vlada" editor-in-chief, Volodymyr Torbich, believes that a mayor of a former district center in Rivne oblast took offense at the journalists and him personally for their inquiries and incriminating reports, deciding to arrange a kind of black PR for the publication.


Kidnapping – 1

1. 69 year old blogger from Kharkiv oblast spent over 100 days in Russian captivity

16.01.2023 The Russian occupiers had been holding Anatoliy Garagatyi, a 69 year old video blogger from the Savyntsi hromada (Kharkiv oblast), captive, reports "Slobidskyi Kray".

On March 2, he filmed a Russian tank convoy entering Savintsy and posted the video on social media. His wife, who always supported him in everything, started persuading him to stop filming the consequences of the Russians' stay in Savintsy. But Anatoly did not agree to this. Still, he moved to his dacha, hoping that the occupiers would not find him there.

The man was detained on May 28 at 6 a.m. He was visited by eight armed Russian soldiers with their faces covered.

The man managed to run into the barn and hide behind a pile of firewood. However, the Russians still found him and searched every corner of both his dacha and his apartment. They took away his video equipment and everything that caught their eye. They accused Anatoliy of adjusting the UAF artillery fire. The man denied the accusations.

He was first interrogated in the village council's garage, where he was thrown with a promise that an investigator would arrive soon. The investigator, unlike the men who had searched Anatoliy's home, had his face open and asked Anatoliy whether he had been giving the Russian troops' coordinates to the Ukrainian military. Unable to get the right answer out of him, the investigator ordered for electric wires to be attached to Anatoliy Gargatyi's toes and for the man to be tased through them. After the second "shock", Garagatyi fainted.

As soon as the man came to his senses, a sack was thrown over his head, and he was thrown into a car and driven to another barn – in Balaklia.

"My wife, having found out where I am, made five unsuccessful attempts to send me food and personal hygiene items. The Russians only approved of the last two packages. To top it all off, our fellow villagers turned their backs on her, afraid to taint their reputation by ties with the wife of an "undesirable" person and thereby share his fate. She became socially isolated. It was hard to bear the sidelong glances, the ostentatious silence, the outright silent treatment," the man recalls.

Cell No.3 in the Balaklia detention center at the local police department became Anatoliy's place of imprisonment for 100 days. The occupiers put eight prisoners in a cell designed for three people. In the summer, the cell was suffocating and cramped. The prisoners were fed plain porridge. They saw the sun for five minutes a day, while being taken to the toilet. Anatoliy Gargatyi lost 10 kilograms of weight during his captivity. Before being kidnapped, he weighed over 70 kg. On September 4, two days before the liberation of Balaklia, Anatoliy Gargatyi and another man from their cell were unexpectedly released. At the same time, the Russians threatened the blogger with death if he picked up a video camera even once.

Anatoliy Gorgatyi's home, like those of most Savintsy residents, remained intact.

"Of course, one can't forget living without gas for five months and cooking food in the open air, having no electricity for a month and a half in a row and living on generators. But that's all in the past now. Even my dacha survived. There were 'hits' indeed. A five-story building downtown was damaged, but the suburbs suffered more. There are many houses with crushed roofs. Three houses near the railway, where the Russian occupiers made a checkpoint, have also been significantly damaged. The 'Russian world' left a 'noticeable trace' in a village named Rakivka as well," the man says.

As IMI reported, on January 2, Yevhen Shybalov, a Donetsk journalist and volunteer, co-founder of the public organization "Responsible Citizens", was released from Russian captivity.

Wounding journalists – 1

1. Bild journalist injured in a shelling attack on Druzhkivka

02.01.2023 Bild reporter Bjorn Stritzel has been injured by shrapnel in a Russian shelling attack on Druzhkivka town (Donetsk oblast) on January 2. This is reported on the publication's website.

Stritzel was sitting by the window when an explosion went off in the town, so he was slightly injured by a glass shard. The door of the house did not withstand the explosion. The glass shattered all over the room, Bild writes.

The journalist himself tweeted that he had been on his forehead by a glass splinter while having dinner at his hotel.

"I am fine, just a cut on the forehead most likely by glass splinter. Was having dinner when the blast happened (not quite sure about the ordnance, haven’t found any debris yet). Was sitting behind the window here. My best guess is it was some part of missile coming down close by," he wrote.

The journalist supposed that the enemy was targeting the railway station, which is around the corner from the hotel where he was staying. He also wrote that there had been several explosions, and that his French colleagues had filmed one of the first blasts, which damaged the hotel where he was staying in.

The Bild team, which is in Druzhkivka and filming a report there, is feeling well, the publication notes.

Firing at journalists – 3

1. Filming crew of a French TV channel comes under fire during a live stream

02.01.2023 The filming crew of the French TV channel TMC witnessed a rocket attack during a live broadcast, report Télé-Loisirs and 24newsrecorder.

The channel's journalist Paul Gasnier had come to Druzhkivka (Donetsk oblast) to cover the war in Ukraine. On the evening of January 2, a few minutes after going live, his crew was knocked off their feet by an explosion.

At the time, reporters Paul Gasnier, Héloïse Grégoire, and Théo Palfray were only a few meters away from the explosion, which went off right behind them near Kramatorsk (Donetsk oblast).

In the video, the journalist is facing the camera with a microphone in his hand, followed by a sound of a Russian bomb going off, throwing him forward, and the camera falling to the ground. Immediately after that, the transmission was interrupted and, as it later turned out, the journalist ran to a bomb shelter together with the sound engineer.

Gasnier later explained how it had happened in his comment on the program: “It caught us by surprise. We were close to the explosions, and we could always hear them, but nothing like this has ever happened to us."

According to him, they were alone on the street, in the parking lot in front of their hotel.

"... it was very loud, we had dust in our eyes and mouth. Part of the hotel entrance collapsed on top of us, the windows were shattered. It was very thrilling. We don't know what happened exactly, we were very scared. But now we are all safe, everything is fine," the journalist said.

"I lost my microphone. Normally I should have had a red microphone, but I lost it in the explosion. Window shards were all around us, we were knocked off our feet, but we are fine," Gasnier said.

The filming crew managed to get to safety. "We were able to take cover in a church a little further away in another neighborhood. We are inside, we are alright, that's all that matters," he said.

As IMI reported, on January 2, Bild reporter Bjorn Stritzel has been injured by shrapnel in a Russian shelling attack on Druzhkivka town (Donetsk oblast).

The Bild team, which is in Druzhkivka and filming a report there, is feeling well, the publication notes.

2. "Dom" filming crew comes under Russian fire in Luhansk oblast

02.01.2023 On January 2, the filming crew of "Dom" TV channel came under Russian fire near Nevske village, Luhansk oblast.

The channel's correspondent Anastasia Volkova spoke to an IMI representative about this.

"We were driving slowly and came under fire as we approached Nevske. Literally four shells landed next to us, 100 meters away from us. We filmed it, but it was very scary," Anastasia said.

According to her, the Russians were not targeting the media workers deliberately. They were probably aiming at the police cars that were moving in the same convoy with the journalists.

Both the filming crew and the car in which they were driving are intact.

3. Russians deliberately fire at Česká Televize journalists near Bakhmut

26.01.2023 On January 26, the Russian military deliberately shelled a spot near Bakhmut (Donetsk oblast) where a Česká Televize crew was working together with their Ukrainian colleagues. The journalists themselves and their cars were branded with "PRESS" stickers.

This was reported to an IMI representative by a Ukrainian war correspondent, Česká Televize fixer Anastasia Zhuk.

"I'm 200% sure that it was deliberate, because there was a drone flying around beforehand, and the error couldn't have been significant. Perhaps they wanted to scare us, but, you know, the scattering of shards and fragments can not be overlooked, either. And firing at the press is a kind of 'entertainment,'" Anastasia said.

Describing the details, she noted that the journalists were about to enter Bakhmut. They stopped for 20 minutes away to take a panoramic shot of the explosions in Bakhmut, the work of the enemy's artillery, and to film the journalist in the frame.

"The explosions were coming non-stop. I saw Russian SUs flying around and dropping bombs on Yahidne village with my own eyes. A new pillar of white smoke would rise every five minutes. As my colleagues were filming a stand-up shot, I noticed a drone flying, but I'm not sure whose drone it was, since we were in the UAF-controlled territory. Unfortunately, it does not say on the drone whether it is Ukrainian or Russian. It flew around for some time. We were wearing helmets with the 'PRESS' marks, the car also had 'PRESS' stickers – both in front and on the back. When we were finished, the first shell hit 50 meters away from us. It was probably the artillery: they couldn't have gotten to us with the mortars, because we were on a raised surface. It was artillery, a 132-caliber – a self-propelled artillery system," Anastasia said.

According to her, she went to the car, where her colleagues were already waiting for her. At that time, another explosion went off – a shell hit the road 20 meters away from the car.

"My colleagues were very scared. We packed our things quickly, got into the car, and drove away. We got onto a concrete road, and literally a minute after we left the place, another hit from a 132-caliber. Approximately the same spot where our car had been parked," the journalist noted.

Anastasia Zhuk added that the journalists were not injured, but they were frightened.

Cyberattacks – 2

1. "Raguli" author restricts access to her content due to bots attempting to block her YouTube channel

12.01.2023 Tetiana Mykytenko, who runs the "Raguli" blog, restricted access to the content on her YouTube due to bots attempting to block her channel. She told an IMI representative about this.

According to her, she restricted the access in order to make it harder to flag the video, and to prevent the channel from being deleted.

"The less the flow of complaints, the less the load on my channel. But to me it's obviously just a bunch of complaints from bots who want to shut the channel down, make me get three strikes. And three strikes means the channel gets deleted. So far, I am at strike one," she said.

According to Mykytenko, a week and a half ago, she started receiving notifications from YouTube, saying that they had reviewed some of her content and restricted it for audiences under 18. She also got a strike.

"I only noticed it when I got a strike. I realized that this was the same story that had happened to me a year ago. Back then I made several videos about Varlamov's film (Ilya Varlamov, Russian blogger. – Ed.) about Ukraine, where I said that it was the beginning of the active phase of the war. It was in December 2021. Four months left until February," said Tetyana Mykytenko.

According to her, they had made a livestream discussing the ways Varlamov's film showed that Russia was entering the active phase of the war and that the Russian Federation was "harnessing" Russian liberal journalists to prepare the audience for "Russia coming to set things right."

The recording of that livestream, says Tetyana Mykytenko, was immediately deleted by YouTube without any strikes.

“It was removed due to a very powerful and prompt attack, because there was no other reason for the channel to be deleted. There were no warnings: it just stopped working at some point. But then there was a backlash. We 'fought back'. And when I got the channel back, I saw which video had been flagged," noted Tetyana.

She also pointed out another detail: after their discussion of the film, Varlamov said that he had been misunderstood. Then the Russian blogger Maxim Katz came to Ukraine and made a video about "things being not so clear-cut."

"And a new version of the film which we had criticized was released on February 16 – on February 24, you know what happened. These two videos, I believe, were a 'warm-up', to lock things down in the heads of those who are ready to listen to pseudo-liberal journalists. It was an obvious move to make the more tolerant audience accept our shared future. This was certainly the plan. Both films – by Varlamov and then by Varlamov and Katz – are available on Varlamov's channel. There are many dubious messages there, which Ukrainian intellectuals finally managed to crush over the last year, as there have been many public discussions on this matter," the media worker added.

After that situation, Tatiana says, she realized how quickly a channel can be deleted.

"After that, I saw complaints against the channel incoming again. Youtube reviews the videos and then either removes them as a strike or restricts access to them. Because I use a lot of obscene language, or the video I'm quoting has such language in it, it's pretty easy for Youtube to shut down my videos for profanity – people under 18 can't view that content. And they restrict the video. For example, they restricted acces to my "Chytanka" dedicated to Todos Osmachka's "The Rotunda of Murderers" – a book about the crimes of Stalin's regime. This livestream, which I made after what happened in Bucha had been revealed. And I made a thematic "Chytanka" devoted to the crimes of the past, and Osmachka does describe rape and the crimes committed by Russians in villages in general. I drew parallels and said that nothing has changed: one just has to read Ukrainian literature," explained Tetyana Mykytenko.

According to her, this video is currently not available to audiences under 18. Even those who have no YouTube account cannot watch it. Moreover, such videos don't show up in Youtube recommendations. So even if one wants to find it, it is quite difficult.

"So, if flagged, the video gets restricted for 18+ viewers, if simply restricted and not taken down, the audience does not see it. It only 'pops up' if you know for sure that you need to find the "Chytanka" which mentions Todos Osmachka. Then you can find and watch this video," says Tetyana Mykytenko.

She noted that YouTube has banned another one of her videos – "Trauma that we need to outgrow". It was made in March, and there Tetyana discussed the crimes that Russia had committed before that – before the 2014 war, before Ukraine's independence.

"I compared Stalin and Putin there. Videos of this sort are now under attack and are being taken down. The last step in my struggle to save the channel is that I decided to hide all the videos from the audience. That is, if you go to the channel, you cannot watch the latest videos. I made them unlisted – this is when a video does not appear in the feed, but if you have a link to it saved or if I posted it on my Telegram channel, then everyone who clicks on the link can go and watch the video," said Tatiana.

According to her, she did it this way so that she doesn't have to delete the link to the video everywhere, but there is still no obvious way to access it. She restricted access to all videos except the "Chytanka" playlist because she believes this content is safe. After that, complaints about the latest open videos started coming.

"There was one video about what was happening with Venediktov (Alexei Venediktov, Russian journalist. – Ed.) and why I think he is still working for the Kremlin as he did before. This video was open, it was also flagged and put under 18+ restriction, and then there was a complaint against "The Rotunda of Murderers", and I expect more complaints to come. Many of the works discussed in "Chytanka" are about Russia's crimes and how they were described in Ukrainian literature, and I think that they will not leave "Chytanka" be just like that, but it is unlikely that there will be any more strikes," says Tetyana Mykytenko.

2. Ukrinform reports a cyber attack

17.01.2023 "Ukrinform" news agency reports that their website suffered a cyber attack and was temporarily down. The agency reported this on Facebook.

"Ukrinform" advised the subscribers to read all news on their social media.

Later, the agency reported that it was working as usual. The website says the attack was powerful, but provides no details.

Later, the State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine reported that Ukrinform may have been hacked by the Sandworm group, which has ties to the Russian GRU.

"The state Computer Emergency Response Team of Ukraine (CERT-UA), which operates under the State Special Communications Service, is investigating the cyber attack on the Ukrainian National News Agency 'Ukrinform', which occurred on January 17. The Russian Telegram channel 'CyberArmyofRussia_Reborn' has already boasted  of the hackers' 'achievement', however, in reality, the attackers failed to interrupt the agency's work," the State Intelligence Service notes.

CERT-UA employees promptly localized the threat.

According to the experts' preliminary data, the hackers carried out a centralized launch of the CaddyWiper malware in order to violate the integrity and availability of information with the help of group policy (GPO).

Taking into account the attack's characteristic features, CERT-UA assumes that the cyber attack was carried out by UAC-0082 (Sandworm). This group is associated with the Chief Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces (GRU). This group is among those that attacked Ukraine most often in 2022.

Also, the state Computer Emergency Response Team notes that the aforementioned Telegram channel has been repeatedly used to highlight Sandworm's malicious activity along with typical reports about DDoS attacks and defaces.

The data-destroying CaddyWiper malware was first detected in Ukraine in mid-March 2022.

Sandworm hackers also used it in a large-scale cyber attack on Ukraine's energy sector last April.

Shutting down Ukrainian broadcasting and streaming Russian propaganda instead – 1

1. Occupiers disable Ukrainian broadcasting in three Kherson settlements

17.01.2023 The Russian invaders have disabled the broadcasting of all Ukrainian TV channels in three temporarily occupied settlements of Kherson oblast. This was reported by the UAF General Staff in their January 17 morning rundown.

According to the General Staff, Ukrainian broadcasting has been disabled in Zavodivka, Hornostayivka, and Kayiry. Currently, only Russian television is available there.

Furthermore, the military reports, the occupiers keep terrorizing the civilian population in Kherson oblast. In particular, Sablukivka, Kachkarivka, Olhivka, Tyahynka, Inhulets, and Kherson were affected by mortar and artillery fire.

As IMI reported, the Ukrainian media space is being restored in Kherson, which has been liberated from the Russian occupiers. People are listening to Suspilne and NV Radio, watching the "United News" telethon.

In January 2022, in Kakhovka district in the occupied part of Kherson oblast, Russian TV channels streamed the Ukrainian President's address.

Media closing down due to Russia's war on Ukraine – 1

1. Volyn newspaper "Kolos" temporarily closes down due to lack of funding

13.01.2023 The Volyn newspaper "Kolos" temporarily closed down for 2023. The newspaper's editor-in-chief, Leon Kondratyuk, announced this in the last issue (December 22, 2022).

"This difficult decision was made not at once, but over the course of several months of painful consideration and struggle for survival. After all, it is no secret that we are on the verge of bankruptcy. The reasons are many, but the main thing is that we don't have enough money to pay for the printing of each single issue of the newspaper," he wrote.

According to Leon Kondratyuk, the newspaper needs financial support: "I'll be honest, we didn't want village councils to allocate funds to us. We asked them to print advertisements and other content on the pages of our newspaper and to pay us for it accordingly. The benefit in this is obvious: people would have information, and we would have at least a little funding."

The editor of the newspaper also stressed that the people of Volyn need the newspaper, but the authorities do not, because no step has been taken to support the publication.

"On the one hand, it is understandable: there is a war going on, and our defenders need the money. On the other hand, the community budget would have be suffered if they had allocated 30–40 thousand for our support, which they could," wrote Leon Kondratyuk.

"Kolos" is an Ivanychi district newspaper. According to YouControl, the newspaper was first registered on 02.16.1994, and as of January 12, 2023, it is not in the process of closing down permanently.

An IMI representative took a photo the last issue of "Kolos" in the Olena Pchilka Science Library, Volyn Oblast.


Online pressure

Other forms of pressure – 1

1. Unknown persons create a Facebook page to defame "Chetverta Vlada"

10.01.2023 Unknown persons have created a Facebook page for posting false allegations against the online publication "Chetverta Vlada". The media considers it manipulation, lies, and gossip around the team's public reports, as well as revenge by a former state official. This was reported by the IMI representative in Rivne oblast.

The Facebook page mostly criticizes the agency's financial policy. For example, one of the posts goes as follows: "Friends, the yearly income of the INDEPENDENT news agency for 2021 is UAH 3,058,503.08. What do you think of the sum? Not bad, right? And how much of this money went to the budget? ATTENTION!! 0 hryvnias 00 kopecks. This is how the 'honest editors' are working towards a just society without corruption."

Please note that "Chetverta Vlada" posts all information about their funding on their website.

The "Chetverta Vlada" editor-in-chief, Volodymyr Torbich posted a blog on this topic. He believes that believes that a mayor of a former district center in Rivne oblast took offense at the journalists and him personally for their inquiries and incriminating reports, deciding to arrange a kind of black PR for the publication. He notes that this is not the first time the publication faces such a situation.

"The primitivism amuses me so far. But just in case, we are keeping record of all these attempts and put them in a folder titled 'Article 171 Part 3 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine: Any form of influence on a journalist with the aim of preventing them from fulfilling their professional duties or persecuting a journalist due to his legal professional activity, committed by an official abusing their official rank or by group of persons upon prior conspiracy,'" Volodymyr Torbich writes.

Freedom of speech defense

The authorities' reaction to freedom of speech violations – 2

1. Court of appeal finds the businessman who attacked "Dumska TV" journalists guilty

09.01.2023 On January 9, the Court of Appeal of Odesa oblast upheld the first instance court's ruling against cafe owner Valeriy Chorny, who attacked the "Dumska TV" filming crew in 2021. The victim, Yevhen Voytenko, spoke to Suspilne about this.

During the hearing, Chorny, along with his lawyer, complained that the film crew allegedly had no documents on them, and disagreed with the first instance court's decision, which obliged him to pay UAH 20,000 of moral redress.

"It seemed to me that Valery Chorny believes that he did nothing illegal by attacking a TV crew as they were performing their professional duties. That is, he considers himself to be absolutely right and innocent in this case," commented TV cameraman Yevhen Voytenko.

Valeriy Chorny left the courtroom even before the judge announced the verdict.

We remind that on November 7, 2022, the Suvorovsky District Court of Odesa found cafe owner Valeriy Chorny guilty under Article 345-1 and sentenced him to two years of conditional imprisonment with a probationary period of one and a half years. In addition, Chorny must pay UAH 20,000 hryvnias of moral redress.

As reported by IMI, on October 4, 2021, in Odesa, employees of a cafe attacked Dumska TV filming crew while those were filming cafes that were working without a permit. "Dumska TV" journalist Yulia Hetmanets told IMI that the attacker had hit TV channel operator Yevhen Voytenko several times.

The police opened a criminal case for obstructing the journalistic activities of the Dumska TV crew (Part 2, Article 171) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. Later, the law enforcers notified the Odesa restaurant manager of suspicion for obstructing the work of "Dumska TV" journalists and threatening violence upon them. The suspicion was filed under Part 2 of Article 171 (obstructing the legal professional work of journalists) and Part 1 of Article 345-1 (threat of violence) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.

2. Chernivtsi court fines the man who doused a journalist with waste UAH 850

24.01.2023 The Shevchenkiv District Court of Chernivtsi found a citizen guilty of obstructing the work of journalist Vasyl Zabrodsky and fined him UAH 850. The court ruled this on January 16, "Sudovy Reporter" reports.

On August 19, 2021, Vasyl Zabrodsky, a journalist of ZET-PRO Television and Radio Company LLC, arrived at the Administrative Services Center to attend a press conference with Chernivtsi Mayor Roman Klitchuk.

At the entrance to the building, a stranger approached the journalist and doused him with waste. Later, at the court hearing, Zabrodsky recalled that he managed to notice two suspicious persons, one of them tall and bearded, and the other one short. The bearded man ran to meet him, taking something out of his bag, while his accomplice was filming everything. Zabrodsky started running to the ASC entrance, but did not have enough time and got doused. He slipped, fell over the threshold, got on his clothes and hands dirty with the waste. The stranger said something about patriots and left; the journalist got up and went to the toilet, where he washed the remaining filth off, wiped himself with his T-shirt. He went out into the ASC hall half-naked and met the director, who asked the janitor to wash everything and give him some robe. Zabrodsky went to the press conference in the robe. The mayor, seeing him, seemed to get very agitated.

The local publication "Molody Bukovynets" wrote that Zabrodsky appeared at the press conference in a janitor's robe and shorts, publishing a photo. "Vasyl Zabrodsky explained his appearance saying that he had been attacked by the 'mayor's people' who tried to prevent him from attending a press conference organized in the ASC," the publication wrote.

At the court hearing, the victim said that the accused was indeed the person who doused him with waste. In his opinion, this man works for the law enforcers. At the same time, Zabrodsky did not object to the culprit being fined and not imprisoned, as he considers this person a victim of circumstances.

The attacker pleaded guilty and refused to testify, citing Article 63 of the Constitution.

At the court hearing, a security guard at the ASC, who heard the journalist shouting and swearing outside while he was having lunch, was questioned.

The court found the attacker guilty of committing a criminal offense provided for in Art. 171 P. 1 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine and fined UAH 850. As "Sudovy Reporter" writes, the accused had frontline experience, has participated in the ATO (JFO) since May 2014, and is also known as a member of multiple patriotic public organizations.

Lawsuits filed by journalists – 1

1. "Chetverta Vlada" forces the police to investigate the City Court obstructing journalists' work

10.01.2023 The Rivne District Court ordered the police to open a case and start an investigation into Rivne City Council officials obstructing the work of Chetverta Vlada's editor-in-chief.

This is stated on the "Chetverta Vlada" website and in the court decision dated December 1, 2022.

Last August, the publication's editor-in-chief, Volodymyr Torbich, addressed the Rivne City Council with a request, asking them to provide copies of documents with information on which persons received real estate in Rivne from the authority in 2021–2022.

The publication has repeatedly covered officials disposing of community property and exposed the mechanisms through which this happens.

Instead of an answer to their request, the journalists received a refusal signed by the Rivne Mayor, Oleksandr Tretyak. Information was not provided, allegedly due to martial law. "They said, at this time, the right to freely collect, store, use, and distribute information may be limited," the media's website comments on the Rivne Council's response.

IMI has recorded multiple cases of state bodies refusing to provide information under the pretense of martial law. "In such cases, the administrator's objective inability to provide a timely answer can be verified either by a higher-ranking body or by the Verkhovna Rada Commissioner on Human Rights," says IMI media lawyer Roman Holovenko.

Moreover, authorities may not restrict access to public information, namely the information about the ownership, use, or disposal of state and communal property, etc.

Volodymyr Torbich filed a statement with the Rivne oblast police twice, but the law enforcers did not open a case. After that, he filed a lawsuit. On December 1, 2022, the Rivne District Court ruled that the police had violated the current criminal procedural law by not entering the editor's statement into the Unified Register of Pre-trial Investigations and not starting a pre-trial investigation.

The spokeswoman for the Rivne Oblast National Police, Maria Yustytska, confirmed to "Chetverta Vlada" that a case has been opened under Article 171 Part 1 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.

Furthermore, the court is currently considering another lawsuit for an administrative offense, which a representative of the Commissioner's office filed against Natalia Marshchivska, head of the accounting and housing distribution department of the Rivne Council. She refused to provide similar information about prosecutors' apartments to "Chetverta Vlada" editor Antonina Torbich.

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