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Committee to Protect Journalists on the media zoning: Ukrainian authorities should review the regulations

24.03.2023, 16:29

The Committee to Protect Journalists says that Ukrainian authorities should refrain from adopting the regulations that stifle the work of journalists by introducing the three zones of the front line. This is reported on the CPJ website.

The organization believes that that authorities should work with local press groups to revise recent rules enacted by military authorities.

“Ukrainian authorities must ensure that members of the press can keep doing the crucial work of covering Russia’s invasion of the country, and refrain from adopting rules that stifle war reporting,” said Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director, in New York. “Military authorities should consult with local journalists and press groups to craft regulations that keep reporters safe while allowing them to work freely.”

Oksana Romanyuk, head of the Institute of Mass Information, told CPJ by phone that the regulations essentially ban reporters from covering the frontline in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying, “everybody is shocked because all the frontline is closed.”

She added that she believed the north and west operational commands developed similar rules but had not published them in light of the criticism received by the other branches’ policies.

CPJ emailed Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense and the east and west commands for comment but did not receive any replies. CPJ contacted the north and south commands via messaging app but also did not receive any responses.

Romanyuk told CPJ that IMI and other groups had been in talks “for several months” with authorities about wartime reporting policies. She said the groups had recommended a zone-based approach, but with red zones used in only “very exceptional cases” and yellow zones corresponding to the frontline.

“We did not expect that they would turn everything into a red zone,” she said, adding that “more than several dozens” of municipalities were marked in red zones.

As IMI reported, on February 27, UAF Commander-in-Chief's Decree No. 73 regarding engagement with the mass media during martial law was amended. According to the changes, journalists will only receive accreditation for a period of up to six months, and the frontline area will now be divided into three access zones for media workers.

Earlier, representatives of the media community proposed to create a task force at the President's Office to improve the way their engagement with the military is regulated, and submitted their proposals on improving communication between journalists and the military to the UAF General Staff.

On March 20, the Donetsk Oblast Military Administration outlined the three zones for journalists of accredited media outlets in region – the "red", the "yellow" and the "green".

The three zones were also outlined in the areas under the jurisdiction of the operational and strategic group of troops "Odesa".

On March 20, the Media Movement, as well as Ukrainian and foreign journalists called the new excessive restrictions on the work of the media during martial law unacceptable and called for an immediate resolution of the situation with access to coverage of the hostilities and their consequences.

The international human rights organization "Reporters Without Borders" called on the Ukrainian authorities to lift the restrictions on journalists' access to covering the hostilities as well.

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