Journalists-hostages were forced to make fake statements for Russian media outlets – IMI
Journalist held in captivity by the terrorists, were forced to make fake statements for Russian media outlets, in particular, for the TV channel LifeNews. IMI observed this tendency based on conversations with the journalists, which have been held in captivity in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic.
According to the journalists surveyed by IMI, the terrorists did not leave them much of a choice, so they were forced to make such video messages. These video messages were not spontaneous: the Russian journalists told them what exactly to say in front of the camera. For instance, the journalist of Lutsk newspaper «VolynPost» Serhiy Shapoval, who was abducted in Donetsk and held hostage from April 26 to May 18 in the building of Donetsk oblast state administration, was forced to say in front of the camera that at that moment he was in Solviansk (Donetska oblast) working on reports. According to him, he was told he would get food and be able to call his family and the tortures would stop if he agreed to make fake video messages, which were recorded by the Russian journalists from "Anna News" and the camera operator of the TV channel "Donbaska Rus." The video they recorded was made available online on a YouTube page of one of the insurgents, where it was found by Shapoval’s family members.
Later, the journalist was forced to create a Youtube account, and the TV channel “Donbaska Rus” was recording Shapoval’s video messages and made them available on Serhiy’s account.
According to the photo correspondent from Kolomya Yevhen Hapych, who on April 22-25 was held in captivity in Svaliansk, LifeNews journalists forced him to acknowledge he was from UNA-UNSO. They promised to release him as soon as he would give a comment to the LifeNews journalists. The LifeNews journalist asked him in front of the camera whether it was true that during the search the gunmen found a package of UNA-UNSO leaflets on him, and Hapych said it was just one leaflet; the LifeNews journalist asked him again, if it was a package, and Hapych responded that the question was about something that did not exist; the LifeNews journalist said, “We are getting no story here”. After that, Hapych was allowed to leave.
The journalist of the TV channel ZIK Maks Osovsky, who detained by the terrorists on a checkpoint in the town of Shchastia near Luhansk, when he was covering the presidential elections in Ukraine on May 25, was forced to record for the so-called news agency “Anna News” a video message that he was working for Ukrainian TV channels to cover the electoral events one-sidedly. He refused to talk to Russian TV channels, but he agreed to talk to the “Anna News” journalist and was told that they would not beat him. In a day and a half he was released from captivity. Osovsky pointed out that he agreed to record the video as he knew that his colleague, Viacheslav Bondarenko, captured together with him, got severely beaten.
Hromadske TV’s journalist of Anastacia Stanko and camera operator Illia Bezkorovainy, who on June 30 were captured by the gunmen of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, also were offered to give an interview to LifeNews, but they refused. To this the LPR press secretary told them they were in no position to refuse but they did, nevertheless.
The Ukrainian journalist and fixer for CNN Anton Skyba, who spent in the terrorists’ captivity 4 days fron July 22 to 26, was also supposed to talk to the LifeNews journalists. As a matter of fact, it was a condition for his release: as soon as they would record an interview with him they would take him to a safe place.
In his comment, the IMI media lawyer Roman Holovenko pointed out that creation of such fake news stories through coercion of hostages against their will is not only violation of their human rights – it is outright aiding and abetting to the terrorists, especially if such fake interviews were a condition for the hostage’s release or cease of tortures. According to him, these cases are clear examples of how some Russian media outlets are actively cooperating with the terrorists and engage in the informational warfare, which has been an important aspect for all terrorist movements. Such news stories are aimed to create a positive image of the terrorists (for instance, when the hostages are forced to say that they are treated nicely), or to form the image of an enemy (for instance, when the hostages are forced to call themselves members of UNA-UNSO). Holovenko believes that the specificity of the informational activity of DPR and LPR terrorists is that they aim their message not to the civilian population that is hostile to them, but to the populations of the Russian Federation and Ukraine that may support them.