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197 violations of freedom of speech recorded in 2021 in Ukraine by IMI

05.01.2022, 09:39

197 cases of violations of freedom of speech were recorded by IMI’s experts in Ukraine in 2021 (as of December 30). Of these, 145 cases involved physical aggression against journalists. For comparison: in 2020, IMI recorded 229 cases of violations of freedom of speech, of which 171 cases involved physical aggression. These are the annual results of the monitoring study of the Institute of Mass Information "Freedom of Speech Barometer".

The main categories of violations of freedom of speech in Ukraine in 2020 were:

  • Obstruction of legitime journalistic activity : 99 cases (for comparison: in 2020 there were 125 cases, in 2019 these were also 99). 
  • Beatings and assaults resulting in bodily injuries : 24 cases (in 2021, there were 20 cases, in 2019 there were 23). 
  • Restrictions on access to public information for journalists: 18 cases (last year, this figure was 22 cases, in 2019, was 21).
  • Cybercrime against the media and journalists: 16 In 2020, 11 cases were recorded in this category, in 2019, there were 15.

 

MAIN TRENDS OF THE YEAR

  1. Physical aggression against journalists remains the most common type of violation of freedom of speech in Ukraine. In 2021, as in 2020, it accounted for 74% of all IMI violations of freedom of speech in Ukraine. The main reasons for this were quarantine restrictions, corruption and aggressive attitude to its exposure, secrecy of the authorities at all levels and high levels of impunity for attacks on journalists. As of December 2021, courts had passed only 10 sentences under "journalistic" articles.  
  2. Increase in censorship cases in Ukraine compared to 2020. Thus, according to media expert Kateryna Dyachuk, in 2020 IMI recorded only two publicly known cases of censorship, compared to eight such cases in 2021. The trend of increasing censorship from both government officials and media owners has been recorded. 
  3. The reduction in obstructions cases in 2021 was due to a calmer political situation (local elections were held in Ukraine in 2020), as well as the fact that journalists worked more online than offline ( IMI polls show that at least a third of newsrooms supported the remote format through coronavirus). 

The right of journalists to exert one’s profession was most often violated by private individuals, local authorities, the judiciary, the President's Office and law enforcement. 

In total, violations of freedom of speech in 2021 were recorded in all 23 regions of the country. Kyiv and the region traditionally lead in the number of violations (74 cases). The second place was taken by Zaporizhzhya and Odesa (12 cases each), the third was taken by Kharkiv and Poltava (10 each), the fourth was by Khmelnytsky and Volyn (eight each), and the fifth was by Cherkasy, Rivne, Lviv and Mykolayiv (seven cases each).

Special mention should be made of the Kharkiv region, which this year took the third position among the regions where the rights of journalists are most violated. This year, the number of cases of physical aggression against journalists has increased in this region, as well as restrictions on access to information and cybercrime. In addition, Khmelnytsky region has risen in the anti-rating of violations, where the number of physical aggressions has also increased this year. In particular, Khmelnytsky journalist and IMI regional representative Alona Bereza was aggressed.

72 men 56 female journalists journalists were subjected to prejudice to their professional rights.

IMI experts also recorded nine cases of damage to journalists' property, eight cases of censorship, six cases of legal pressure and four cases of indirect pressure.

We will remind, January was "marked" with mass systematic denials of access for journalists to session of the Zaporizhzhya city council. In despair, journalists picketed the City Council building. February was "rich" in bodily harm to journalists (five people were injured). During March, representatives of the judiciary were "distincted" for illegally barring journalists from open court hearings. 

In April, IMI experts also noted that local and judicial authorities did not allow journalists to attend sessions, executive committees, and court hearings. In May, the anti-heroes of freedom of speech were the bodyguards of the MP from OPFL Viktor Medvedchuk and again MP Ilya Kyva. In June, judicial and local authorities, as well as individuals, violated freedom of expression. In addition, IMI recorded a very serious case, which was in fact an assassination attempt: In Chernivtsi, IMI recorded a case of property damage: the producer of the Chernivtsi branch of the Suspilne (UA:PBC) Public Broadcaster Maksym Voloshin had his car brakes cut off . This is a very serious case, as there was actually an assassination attempt. Voloshin considers this case as one that may be related to professional activity. However, he did not receive any direct threats or accusations..

July was marked by blattant beatings and attacks on journalists. Thus, the operators of OTV TV channel Ihor Hutnik and D1 TV channel Serhiy Faizulin (Dnipro) were injured. In Kyiv, representatives of right-wing radical organizations attacked Oleksander Kuzhelny, a journalist with the Bukvy newspaper, punched him in the face, spat at him, and pushed and threatened him. In addition, a police officer in Kyiv twice used gas against Apostrophe journalist Roman Petushkov. 

In August, attacks on journalists continued: five journalists were injured in the course of their professional activities. Three cases of beating of media workers took place in Kyiv during protests in front of the President's Office and on the Alley of Heroes of the Heavenly Hundred. In two cases, Bukvy’s journalist Oleksander Kuzhelny and TSN cameraman Anton Filipp were attacked by activists, and in one case (Apostrophe journalist Roman Petushkov) was attacked by police. 

In September, journalists were barred from attending court hearings and going to city councils.

In October, journalists of the Skhemy program were assaulted during an interview with Ukreximbank chairman Yevhen Metzger in his office. Another high-profile case concerned an attempt to disrupt the screening of the film "Slidstvo.Info" "Offshore 95" about the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky due to alleged repair work at the Maly Opera. In the end, due to publicity, the utility changed its decision, and the premiere took place. 

Beyond this, at first on Suspilne claimed about pressure from the President's Office, and then similar accusations were made by the TV channel "Pryamy" and the talk show "Freedom of Speech by Savik Shuster".

In November, IMI spokeswoman Alyona Bereza, an investigative journalist, was attacked and the State Bureau of Investigation pressured Censor.Net editor-in-chief Yuri Butusov over a released video of him firing from a D-20 howitzer. Among the cases of censorship was the closure of the English-language Kyiv Post, which claimed pressure from owner Adnan Kivan. The "censorship" category also includes statements by former journalists from the Dom TV channel about receiving instructions from the President's Office and about censoring news. 

Read more about the state of freedom of speech on the IMI website in the "Freedom of Speech Barometer" section .

The Institute of Mass Information conducts monthly all-Ukrainian monitoring of freedom of speech in the following categories: physical aggression, censorship and access to information, economic and political pressure, legal pressure and cybercrime against the media and journalists. Only cases related to freedom of speech and professional journalism are included in the monthly report. You can read more about the methodology here.

This study was made possible by the support of the American people through the USAID Media Program in Ukraine, run by the Internews Network in partnership with Freedom House. The content is under the sole responsibility of the Institute of Mass Information and does not necessarily reflect the views of USAID, the US Government or the Internews Network.

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