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Journalists in ATO zone face obstruction from both militants and governmental institutions - Helsinki Advocacy Group

04.11.2015, 03:08

The activities of journalists in the East of Ukraine are being restricted by both illegal armed formations and by governmental institutions, which won’t let mass media representatives conduct their professional activities and which censor their materials. Advocates of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Association reported this at their press conference on the topic: «Freedom of press in ATO zone: how cases on death, pressure against and harassment of journalists are being investigated?», UNIAN reports.

As the head of Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Association’s Analytics Department Oleh Martynenko reported, in 2014, five journalists and five mass media employees died in Ukraine, of them only one person worked for a Ukrainian media outlet. He also said that in 9 months of 2015, one representative of Ukrainian media died.

According to UNESCO statistics, Martynenko said, today only one case out of ten is effectively investigated (referring to the cases of direct assaults against journalists in conflict zones in relation to their professional activities).

Martynenko mentioned that in 1.5 years that the war in Donbas has been going on, none of the cases of journalists taken prisoners was objectively investigated. In addition, Martynenko said, in Ukraine during June - August of 2015, 42 mass media representatives, of whom 23 were journalists, suffered from crimes.

The head of the Association's Monitoring Studies Department Oleksiy Bida said that one of the complications in gathering facts on pressure against journalists is lack of the victims’ trust to advocates. According to him, it is difficult to explain in some cases that advocates need to be guided by the supremacy of law, and must register violations of both sides, regardless of their personal opinions.

Experts emphasized how important it is not simply to register the facts of murders or deaths of journalists, but also to inform the public about the measures taken in aftermath and investigation progress and results. Currently, the advocates say, the public is almost never informed properly about the investigation of even most vocal crimes in this category. In particular, Martynenko said, investigation of death of two Russian media workers in summer of 2014 in Luhanska oblast, Igor Korneliuk and Anton Voloshyn, of whose murder Nadia Savchenko is accused, was never conducted by Ukrainian authorities, or, at least, the public is not informed about this investigation at all. Even considering the need for secrecy in some cases, the information released by the authorities on investigations like this is close to none, Martynenko added.

As to cooperation of the Helsinki Human Rights Association with  the authorities, related to gathering information about offences, it is, sadly, one-sided – the Ministry of Justice requests information, but provides nothing in return. The General Prosecutor's Office is also far behind the NGO in creating the database of human rights violations in Ukraine.

As a background, from November 2 to November 23 International Federation of Journalists started international campaign «Stop the impunity» against the impunity of crimes against journalists.

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