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IMI records 10 freedom of speech violations in Ukraine in August

06.09.2023, 10:00
Photos by Anna Kudryavtseva / RFE/RL, Pavlo Solodovnyk. Edit by IMI
Photos by Anna Kudryavtseva / RFE/RL, Pavlo Solodovnyk. Edit by IMI

In July IMI experts recorded 10 crimes against freedom of speech in Ukraine. Six of them were committed by Russia and targeted media and journalists.

This is evidenced by the monthly monitoring "Freedom of Speech Barometer" by the Institute of Mass Information.

The crimes against media committed by Russia include firing at journalists, cyberattacks, destroying one outlet's office, and legal pressure.

At the same time, IMI recorded four freedom of speech violations for which Ukrainian citizens are responsible. These include obstruction, restricting access to public information, and legal pressure.

A Radio Liberty filming crew came under Russian fire in Donetsk oblast. The crew consisted of reporter Yevhenia Kytayiva, camerawoman Anna Kudryavtseva, and driver Volodymyr Yavniuk. The shelling damaged the car they were driving. The journalists were unharmed.

"Cheline" editorial office has been destroyed by a Russian missile hitting the premises of the Shevchenko Music and Drama Theater in the center of Chernihiv on August 19. According to Pavlo Solodovnyk, the editor of "Cheline", the team no longer has an office. The impact of the missile shattered the windows and doors and caused parts of the ceiling to collapse. The journalists' equipment – laptops, computers, cameras and microphones – was destroyed or damaged. However, there was no one in the office at the time of the shelling, so the employees were unharmed.

Furthermore, Russia has declared Ukrainian journalist Yanina Sokolova wanted. Yanina Sokolova responded to the news about being wanted with irony, noting that "I was already warrying that I'm not Russophobic enough. So I am glad they did it."

ZN.UA editors reported a Russian DDoS attack on their website on the night of August 9. The website was under attack for several hours, which prevented readers from accessing information. However, the outlet managed to repel the attack and restore the website.

Moreover, on the night of August 21, the Russians hacked the Telegram channel of the Ukrainian media outlet "RIA Melitopol", which continued to work even after Melitopol (Zaporizhia oblast) was occupied. The media posted the relevant statement on its website. The editors noted that "the ruscists are posting their shameful news on the TG channel, changed the channel's name to Russian and added a different profile picture."

A fake article purportedly written by Chernihiv journalist Iryna Synelnyk, who works with the news agency UNIAN, is being circulated on Facebook. The article was published on a clone of the outlet's page. It is being promoted on the social media platform through advertising. The article talks about the heavy losses of the Ukrainian army and the need to negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The four freedom of speech violations for which Ukrainian citizens are responsible include obstruction, restricting access to public information, and legal pressure.

Cases of obstruction were recorded in Dnipro and Kyiv. In Kyiv, the head of the Obolon district court of Kyiv, Olena Zhezhera, barred "Watchers" journalist Alina Kondratenko from recording a hearing on audio or taking pictures.

The journalist had come to a trial in the case of a Russian citizen who stood accused of unauthorized spread of information about the transfer of weapons and ammunition to Ukraine, the movement and location of UAF units. "I wanted to take a couple of photos and make a recording that I could later listen to and write an article," Alina said, adding that the hearing was open and there was no decision to hold it behind closed doors. 

In Dnipro, the media outlet "Dnipro Operatyvny" received yet another email claiming that their office has been mined. However, the inspection found no explosives in the building. Earlier, in May, the editorial office had already received a similar email. Back then, the police found no explosives, either.

A case of restriction of access to public information was recorded in Zaporizhzhia. The Municipal Administration Department of the Zaporizhia City Council refused to provide Zaporizhzhia Center of Investigation journalists with the deeds on the completed road repair work in Zaporizhzhia, which was carried out from early July to late August 2023. The reason for the refusal was that such information could harm national security.

A "Volyn Online" journalist was subjected to legal pressure: the group of companies "Technotorg" filed a lawsuit against her for investigating the activities of the enterprises. The plaintiffs demand that the information be declared unreliable and defamatory and that the journalist pay UAH 750,000 as compensation for moral damage.

Learn more here.

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