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Journalists in Sumy's "yellow zone" to be escorted by soldiers at all times, says IMI representative

12.02.2024, 17:49

The UAF operational unit "Sumy" has introduced permanent military escort for journalists in the "yellow zone" in their area.

The regional representative of the IMI learned about this through media workers who attended the February 9 meeting with the OU "Sumy" press officer Maryna Tsvigun, who clarified the recent amendments to the Commander-in-chief's Decree No. 73.

According to media workers, journalists will be permanently escorted by soldiers in the yellow zone of the Sumy oblast. This contradicts the exceptions to the amendments, which allow journalists to work on the yellow zone's public sites which are freely accessible to civilians without an accompanying officer.

The IMI's sources in the OU "Sumy" say that since, according to Decree No. 73, journalists must be accompanied by a press officer while "in the soldiers' recreation areas" and in the "areas of permanent deployment points", then, in their opinion, the entire yellow zone falls under this the definition, and journalists need the press officers' support everywhere, even when working with civilians.

The media workers who were present at the meeting also say that the safety escort that the unit arranges for the journalists departing to the yellow zone includes "a fireteam to provide cover and a medical evacuation vehicle." The IMI's sources in the OU "Sumy" were unable to refute this information and pointed out that the entire zone was under fire, which is why they "have to make protection arrangements for journalists every day."

The latest amendments to Decree No. 73 removed the Clause 1.10, which stipulated that "in the event of a life-threatening or dangerous situation for mass media representatives" the soldiers should immediately halt the journalists' work at a military site, from Appendix 1. According to IMI lawyer Roman Holovenko, the new edition of Decree No. 73 states that a journalist's safety is his own and his media outlet's responsibility, not that of the military (Clause 5 of Appendix 4 to Decree 73: "Rules for the work of media representatives in combat areas"). In view of this, such security precautions seem excessive and burdensome for the journalists' work.

At the same time, Alyona Yatsyna and her media outlet "Kordon.Media" told IMI that the military have distributed their names and car numbers with an instruction not to let them through anywhere.

The IMI reached out to the OU "Sumy" press officer Maryna Tsvigun for a comment on the amendments to Decree No. 73, but she said that she had no right to comment.

What we know about the amendments to Decree No. 73

On February 6, 2024, the amendments to Decree No. 73 "On the organization of cooperation between the Ukrainian Armed Forces, other components of the Defense Forces, and mass media representatives under martial law" were signed by the UAF Commander-in-Chief Valery Zaluzhny and made public.

A number of changes provide for easier access for journalists to the red and yellow zones. The zoning principle has also changed: access to areas inhabited by civilians remains free for accredited journalists and does not require additional permits or an escort.

The zones pertain not to the territory, but to specific military objects. Also, from now on, the military is not responsible for the safety of journalists working in the combat areas.

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