IMI records 150 freedom of speech violations in Ukraine in 2023; nearly half committed by Russia
In 2023 the IMI experts recorded 150 freedom of speech violations in Ukraine. 67 of those violations were committed by Russia in the course of its full-scale invasion into Ukraine.
This is the annual summary of the monitoring "Freedom of Speech Barometer" by the Institute of Mass Information.
In 2023, Russia's crimes in Ukraine included murder and kidnapping of journalists, firing at and injuring journalists, death threats, damaging media offices, cyber crimes, disabling Ukrainian broadcasting, legal pressure, and blocking online access to Ukrainian media content. Furthermore, Ukrainian media outlets keep closing down due to the financial crisis caused by Russia's full-scale aggression.
According to the IMI, the Russians killed 27 media workers in Ukraine in 2023. Two of them died while reporting:
- Ukrainian fixer for the Italian La Repubblica, Bohdan Bitik, who was killed by a Russian strike on Kherson in April 2023.
- Arman Soldin, a journalist for the French news agency AFP, who died in a Russian shelling strike near Bakhmut in May.
- The other 25 media workers died as combatants. One death – that of Vladyslav Dzikovsky, the "Detector Media" system administrator who was considered missing since December 2022 – was confirmed in 2023.
The occupiers have killed a total of 70 journalists since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion into Ukraine; 10 of those died in execution of their professional duties.
According to the IMI, at least 12 filming crews and individual journalists came under Russian fire in 2023. In addition, Russian shelling destroyed or damaged eight media offices over the previous year. Four journalists were reported kidnapped by the Russians in 2023. Experts recorded Russia committing crimes against the media and journalists in 12 oblasts of Ukraine. These included both frontline and rear areas.
The freedom of speech situation in Ukraine for which Ukrainian citizens are responsible
In 2023, the IMI recorded 83 freedom of speech violations committed by the Ukrainian side. This number is slightly lower than in 2022 (97 cases). For comparison: in 2021, IMI recorded a total of 197 freedom of speech violations, and 229 in 2020.
The main types of violations for which Ukrainian citizens are responsible in 2023 included:
- preclusion to legal journalistic work – 29 cases (32 cases in 2022);
- denying access to public information – 20 cases (21 in 2022);
- cyber crime and death threats – 11 cases each.
The IMI also stresses that it is crucial for media workers to have sufficient access for reporting on the hostilities and the liberated territories to inform the people of Ukraine and document important historical events. This is also important for Ukraine to maintain the attention of the people in countries on whose help our state is militarily dependent. In 2023, we received regular reports from journalists about selective treatment when it came to getting admission to work in combat areas, or being barred from working under the pretext of "keeping journalists safe." The IMI expects that the amendments announced by President Volodymyr Zelensky will take effect in the near future and journalists' access to the front line will be improved.
Overall, the journalists' right to the profession in 2023 was most often violated by private individuals, law enforcers, local self-government bodies, judicial authorities, representatives of the Russian Church, etc.
In terms of numbers, Kyiv city and the Kyiv oblast traditionally rank first (21 violations). They are followed by the Mykolayiv oblast (9 cases), the Rivne oblast (8), the Poltava oblast (7), with the fifth place shared by the Khmelnytsky and Cherkasy oblasts (6 cases each).
For comparison: 567 freedom of speech violations were recorded in Ukraine in 2022. Of these, over 80% (470 crimes) were committed by Russia in the course of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Last year, Russian crimes on Ukrainian territory included murder, kidnapping, firing at and wounding journalists, death threats, damage to media offices, cyber crimes, disabling Ukrainian broadcasting, legal pressure, blocking online access to Ukrainian media content. Ukrainian media outlets also continuted to close down due to the financial crisis caused by the full-scale war.
Read more about the freedom of speech situation in Ukraine on the IMI website under the heading "Freedom of Speech Barometer".
The Institute of Mass Information (IMI) is a public media organization that has been operating since 1995. The IMI defends the rights of journalists, analyzes the media field and covers media-related events, fights propaganda and disinformation and has been providing media outlets with safety gear for trips to the combat zone since the start of the Russo–Ukrainian war in 2014.
The IMI carries out Ukraine's only freedom of speech monitoring and keeps a list of high quality and sustainable online media outlets, documents Russia's crimes against the media committed in the course of the war on Ukraine. The IMI has representatives in 20 oblasts of Ukraine and a network of "Mediabaza" hubs to provide journalists with continuous support. The IMI's partners include Reporters Without Borders and Freedom House; the organization is a member of the International Organization for the Protection of Freedom of Expression (IFEX).
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