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IMI records 14 crimes against freedom of speech in Ukraine in September (amended)

13.10.2023, 13:00
Edit by IMI
Edit by IMI

Amendment. An August incident which had been included by mistake has been removed from the September monitoring. IMI apologizes to our readers.

In September IMI experts recorded 13 crimes against freedom of speech in Ukraine. Five 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, legal pressure, destroying one outlet's office, and cyberattacks.

At the same time, IMI recorded eight freedom of speech violations for which Ukrainian citizens are responsible. These include obstruction, restricting access to public information, death threats and cyberattacks.


Edit by IMI

In September, photographer Volodymyr Myronyuk was killed in action near Kurdyumivka (Donetsk oblast). He is the 67th media worker to die as a result of Russia's aggression in Ukraine. Myronyuk was a Ukrainian, but lived in the US and had the American citizenship. He was both fighting and a working as a photographer.

Russians also attacked the Swedish TV4 crew in Zaporizhzhia oblast with a suicide drone. The car the journalists were traveling in and the filming equipment were destroyed in the attack. Reporter Johan Fredriksson and photographer Daniel Zdolsek were out of their car filming when it was hit by a drone. The journalists were unharmed. However, their local producer Oleksandr Pavlov and two Ukrainian policemen accompanying the TV4 crew received minor injuries.

In September it was reported that the "Cheline" editorial office had 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.

One case of legal pressure by Russia concerned the Ukrainian TV host Maria Yefrosynina, who was sentenced by a Moscow court to seven years in prison in absentia for spreading fakes about the army motivated by political hatred. The court also banned the Ukrainian journalist from running online pages for three years. One of the executives of the Crimean Tatar channel ATR, Ayder Mujdabayev, was also sentenced to six years in prison for "public calls to terrorism" and barred from running websites for four years.

The eight freedom of speech violations committed by Ukrainian citizens include obstruction, withholding public information, death threats and cyberattacks.

The independent anti-corruption center and the Institute of Mass Information both received threats via email.

The person writing to said that they knew the journalists' home addresses and threatened them with physical assault. The center's executive Oleksandra Hubytska remarked that they believe the threats to be connected to the article "The Great Escape", which was released on September 14, 2023. identified 2,248 men who fled the country through to the Shlyakh system and the persons who helped them. It is after the release of the article that the threats arrived.

IMI received an email claiming that Ukrinform office, where IMI and "Detector Media" were presenting their Recommended Media Map (a list of high quality media projects in each of Ukraine's oblasts), has been mined. In the threatening email, the anonymous person wrote: "Two time bombs have been planted at the National News Agency of Ukraine – Ukrinform," and listed the exact address of the news agency.

In September IMI experts recorded three instances of obstruction of legal journalistic work in Chernihiv, Khmelnytsky and in Mykolaiv oblast.

In Yuzhnoukrainsk (Mykolaiv oblast), officials tried to prevent "NikVesti" filming crew from entering the building where the City Council was re-electing the council chair (acting mayor) at an unscheduled meeting.

Angela Savastru, who represents the outlawed party OPFL, called the police and asked them to keep the media workers away from the hall. The deputy argued that the journalists "had no proper credentials" and that the meeting was supposed to be held behind closed doors. She also emphasized that she had rented the venue in the local cultural center "Energetik" with her own money, therefore, if the reporter wanted to stay there, they would have to pay the rent.

In Khmelnytsky, a reporter and a cameraman of the local media ZHAR.INFO were not allowed into the regional administration hall. The journalists wanted to get a comment from the first deputy head of the Khmelnytsky Oblast Military Administration, Serhiy Tyurin, regarding aid to the Hruzevytsya residents who were affected by the Russian shelling. Prior to that, the editors contacted Tyurin personally and asked the press office for his comment three times. Having received no response, the journalists decided to personally go to the first deputy's reception room to try to get a comment. However, the security guards asked the journalists whether they "got an approval for their visit" and refused to let the media into the building. The security guards asked the journalists to leave the checkpoint and wait. The reporters disagreed and asked them to contact the administration staff who could help resolve the issue and help them get a comment. The guards replied that the building was a "military object" and pointed their weapons at the journalists. After the incident, the media called the police and wrote a statement about obstruction of journalistic work.

In Chernihiv, a court prohibited Suspilne.Chernihiv and 0462 reporters from taking photos, an audio or video recording of an open hearing in the case of the September 3, 2022 explosion which occurred during a charity fair in Chernihiv's old district.

Furthermore, IMI experts recorded two cases of officials limiting journalists' access to information. These incidents happened in Khmelnytsky and Poltava.

The Khmelnytsky City Council refused to provide a ZHAR.INFO journalist with the structural subunits' conclusions regarding the draft decisions that were on the agenda of the September 24 City Council session. The City Council claimed that the decision was motivated by the fact that the conclusions in question are considered official internal correspondence. However, some media outlets were publishing screenshots of these conclusions on the draft decisions even before the session began.

The Poltava City Council responede to an inquiry ZHAR.INFO by saying that they would provide the answers after the martial law is lifted. The department explained that there was no deputy mayor in charge of this segment at the time of the first request.

IMI also recorded one cyberattack: unknown persons tried to access the Telegram profile of Olena Mudra, an investigator journalist. She believes this has to do with her reporting, namely with her remarks about the work of state officials. She said that a few hours before the hacking attempts on her Telegram profile she made a Facebook post about the changes in the leadership of the oblast council, which earned a lot of comments.

Read more here.

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