January of 2014 became the worst month for freedom of press in Ukraine - IMI
January of 2014 became the worst month for freedom of press in Ukraine for the entire period IMI has been conducting the monitoring. This month, the highest number of assaults and beatings of journalists has been recorded – 82 cases (for comparison, during the entire year of 2012, 65 assaults were recorded). Also, 13 cases of cyber-crimes against journalists and media outlets and 13 cases of threats and intimidations of journalists have been recorded. This data was presented in the monthly monitoring «Press Freedom Barometer» by the Institute of Mass Information.
Also, IMI registered 11 cases of obstruction to lawful professional journalist activities, 8 cases of arrests, 5 cases of censorship, 2 cases of political pressure and 1 case each of body search, hindering access to public information, and pressure on bloggers.
This month, IMI had to introduce a new category in the Press Freedom Barometer – «Journalists that had to go into hiding or to leave the country.» Three such cases have been recorded in January.
In January, as well as in December and November, the trend of beatings and assault on representatives of media outlets, both Ukrainian and foreign, who were covering the EuroMaidan events, continued.
The predominant majority of journalists suffered during or in the result of performing of their professional duties, starting from January 19, when on Hrushevskoho Street in Kyiv the violent confrontation between protest rally participants and law enforcement officers began.
For instance, IMI recorded 17 cases of journalists being wounded with bullets fired by police on Hrushevskoho Street. Also, there were 2 cases, when Berkut fighters were targeting journalists’ cameras, but they managed to hide in time and the bullets missed. Due to the confrontations on Hrushevskoho Street, many journalists sustained injuries from explosions of sound and flash grenades or poisoned by the tear gas. At least a dozen journalists’ equipment was damaged or completely destroyed - video cameras, photo cameras, tablets, thumb drives and so on. The category «Assaults» also includes many cases of physical aggression against journalists by police, Berkut fighters; hired thugs were attacking representatives of media outlets, as well.
Besides, IMI recorded journalists, who were injured due to other actions, for instance, when police and protesters were pushing each other in a line fight, or by cobble stones both sides were throwing at each other.
In December journalists had an impression that Berkut fighters were hitting them with their truncheons intentionally, and in January journalists had reasons to believe that the shot fired at them were no less intentional. In particular, one such case happened to the Radio Liberty journalist Ihor Iskhakov, who recorded how an officer of the law-enforcement agencies was aiming right at him. The 1+1 TV channel’s journalist TV channel Natalia Pisna pointed out that she was wearing the luminescent PRESS vest, when a bullet hit her in the leg.
In January, cyber crimes included DDoS-attacks on websites of media outlets, which were covering the events of EuroMaidan and confrontations on Hrushevskoho Street. Among those targeted by hacker attacks were the websites of Telekrytyka, the Channel 5, the 1+1 TV channel, and Ukrainska Pravda. Also, hacker attacks forced some regional websites offline – Mukachevo.net and Zakarpattia Online, which were actively covering the events of EuroMaidan, as well.
Among the cases of obstruction, in January there were several recorded cases of prohibition to film EuroMaidan in Donetsk. Journalists with TV cameras were not allowed to the building of Obolon court, where the court session was supposed to decide on the preventative measure for detained participants of AutoMaidan. In Mykolayiv and Kherson, supporters of the Party of Regions were messing with local journalists and preventing them from making photos and recording video. And the command post prohibited Channel 5 to film the rally in support of the president Victor Yanukovych in Mariyinsky Park in Kyiv, as it accused the TV channel in a biased coverage of the events in the country and incitement of hatred.