Human rights organizations called on Zelensky to protect activists and journalists
Several international human rights organizations - the Amnesty International, the Freedom House and the Human Rights Watch - called on the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky to put an end to impunity for delicts committed on the ground of hate and violent attacks against civic activists and journalists. Such is the message of an open letter to the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky as to human rights condition in Ukraine. The institutions noted that over the past five years they have seen some progress made by Ukrainian authorities as to some key issues, but also stagnation and setback for some others. "We are writing this letter at the beginning of your presidency to ask to ensure that justice, accountability and respect of human rights became crucial elements at your agenda, especially in those areas where there is no progress," they said in the open letter. The institutions urged Zelensky to "make it clear" for those who commit attacks, who try to intimidate and to persecute, in particular, civic activists and journalists, that they will be brought to account within thorough investigation. "In particular, we call on you to put an end to impunity for hate-based violence and violence against civic activists and journalists, to enhance accountability of law enforcement and security services agencies through greater civilian oversight, and to uphold the rights of people in eastern Ukraine affected by the armed conflict, particularly older people ", - said human rights defenders. In the statement, the institutions noted that freedom in media field continues to be under pressure in Ukraine. At the same time, the signatories of the open letter referred to the figures the NGO "Institute of Mass Information", media watchdog, which recorded more than 200 violations of freedom of the press in Ukraine in 2018, including 31 cases of physical attacks targeting the journalists. "In 2019, the mass media continue to face challenges: journalists continue to fight court orders to hand over cellphone data to the authorities, and television channels have been sanctioned on claims that their pro-Russian tilt undermines Ukrainian sovereignty, which could mean revoking their broadcasting licenses", - the open letter said. Also, international institutions drew attention to the fact that physical attacks on journalists also question of an attack against a journalist-investigator from Cherkassy-based investigative journalist Vadym Komarov, committed on May 4th. "During your presidency, we ask you to claim about inadmissibility of selective use of court orders demanding to disclose sources of information and of toleration of persecution and attacks on journalists, as well as ensure that foreign journalists have unfettered access to the country," as to the open letter. The institutions hope that their recommendations surroundingn these issues will help to guide the policy of the President in the coming months. The signatories are willing to provide more detailed information on any of the above or other issues. They hope as well they could schedule a meeting to discuss the best ways to ensure protection of human rights of all Ukrainians. The open letter was signed by Marie Struthers, Director, Eastern Europe and Central Asia Regional Office Amnesty International, Hugh Williamson, Director of Europe and Central Asia Division Human Rights Watch and Marc Behrendt, Director, Europe and Eurasia Programs Freedom House. As IMI reported, in 2018, in the non-occupied territory of Ukraine, the Institute of Mass Media identified 235 cases of violations of freedom of speech. This figure is lower than during the same period in 2017, when 281 violations were recorded (for comparison: in 2016 there were 264 violations, in 2015 - 310, in 2014 - 995). The main challenge for freedom of the press in 2018 was the physical aggression against journalists.
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