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IMI representative speaks about the violations faced by Volyn journalists in the last five years

13.11.2023, 17:39
Maya Golub and the event's host, journalist Andriy Yanitsky. Photo by Lina Romanchenko
Maya Golub and the event's host, journalist Andriy Yanitsky. Photo by Lina Romanchenko

Over the past five years Volyn journalists have faced physical aggression, cyber attacks and restrictions on access to public information, according to the Institute of Mass Information representative in Volyn oblast, journalist Maya Golub, who spoke about this at a round table which took place in Kyiv as part of the UNESCO-supported initiative IWPR Protecting the Frontline on November 10.

She says that over this period IMI experts recorded journalists in Volyn facing obstruction, threats, phishing emails, attacks on local media websites, and refusals to provide requested information. Furthermore, with the start of the full-scale invasion, the media and journalists have received death threats from Russia to their editorial and personal inboxes, and the Russians have also attacked websites reporting on the war on Ukraine.

She reminded that, according to the IMI Freedom of Speech Barometer, the experts recorded 10 cases of violations in Volyn oblast in 2018, 11 cases in 2019, seven cases in 2020, eight cases in 2021, two cases in 2022. In 2023, five violations have been recorded so far.

The IMI representative mentioned several examples of obstruction faced by journalists. For instance, she recalled a case from this spring when parishioners in Lutsk tried to prevent "Konkurent" reporters from entering the Church of the Intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos  (UOC, affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church). Two women sitting at the entrance to the church said that journalists were not allowed in and that a permission from the abbot was required to film in the church. The reporters still managed to do their work without additional permits.

Maya Golub also spoke about the attack on journalist Lyudmyla Yavorska, who was assaulted by the official Heorhiy Shtefanesa in 2021 for coming to the Pidhaytsivka village council for information. This April, the Lutsk City and District Court of Volyn oblast convicted the perpetrator for embezzling budget money and assaulting the journalist and imprisoned him for five and a half years.

As the regional police reported to the IMI representative, only five cases were brought to court in 2018–2023. In particular, in 2019, one robbery case was referred to the court (Article 186 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine), in 2021 – three cases: two under Article 171 of the Criminal Code (obstructing journalistic work) and one under Art. 126 of the Criminal Code (beating or assault). In 2022, only one case of alimony evasion (Article 164 of the Criminal Code) was submitted to the court. 13 cases were closed in 2022.

"Information on the number of police statements filed by journalists over the past five years and of the opened and closed cases could not be readily obtained. First, I sent five public information requests to learn more about the violations of journalists' rights over the past five years. Having consulted with IRRP lawyer Oksana Maksymeniuk and my colleague Yuriy Horbach, we decided to send one inquiry with the questions about violations and punishments for the past five years and articulated the questions a little differently," the journalist said.

Maya Golub also shared her own experience with obstruction to her professional work.

According to her, she repeatedly faced violations of her rights. "Someone attempted to hack my email account and social media, and there were also warnings (I won't call it phone threats). I remember how in 2014 the police did not let me attend a presentation by the new chair of the Volyn Oblast State Administration, Oleksandr Baskalenko. It was the Euromaidan time. The policemen decided not to let me pass by blocking the passage. Then I filmed it, because they violated my rights as a journalist, and called the police. Nonsense, as it was the police violating my rights. I waited for an hour, and no one arrived. After that, I started receiving strange calls from unknown numbers. They told me: what was I thinking, "we don't live in Europe yet" and so on. After this situation, someone broke the lock and broke into the "Chetverta Vlada" office in Lutsk, where I worked at the time. There was no one in the office at the moment. I remember that I was going to come to the office, but changed my mind at the last moment and decided to work elsewhere. I can't imagine what would have happened if I was in the office while someone broke the lock to get inside," she said.

Maya Golub has been working as a regional representative of the IMI in Volyn oblast since 2017.

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