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Media and human rights NGOs call on authorities to effectively investigate into crimes against journalists

02.11.2021, 15:30

On International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, Ukrainian media and human rights organizations call on the government and law enforcement agencies to investigate in an efficient and transparent way crimes against journalists, to reform law enforcement and put in force reform of judicial to render the impunity impossible. 

Free, high-quality and independent media absolutely essential for the successful evolvement of Ukraine. They are those who expose corruption, report on human rights violations, and provide citizens with reliable socially important information on a daily basis, which is especially important in times of pandemic and challenges of disinformation that Ukraine faces now. 

Over the first ten months this year, the Institute of Mass Information recorded 153 cases of violations of freedom of speech in Ukraine. Two thirds of violations are related to physical aggression targeting the journalists, in particular, in 2021 there were 19 cases of beatings of journalists, 80 cases of obstruction, 12 threats. Another challenge is the COVID-19 pandemic, which is used by local authorities as an illegitimate excuse for denying access for the press to the sessions, sitting of working groups of local councils, and by some courts as a formal reason for not allowing journalists to attend court hearings.

According to the Office of the Prosecutor General, over the first nine months of 2021, law enforcement officers investigated and brought to court 17 indictments relating to crimes committed against journalists under "journalistic" articles of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. As of October 2021, courts have issued seven sentences in cases against journalism. Six of them are related to obstruction of journalistic activity (Article 171 of the Criminal Code) and one was related to a combination of Articles 171 and 345-1 (threats or violence against a journalist) of the Criminal Code. One sentence was acquittal and six were acquittal. 

We also remind you that currently 12 journalists - citizens of Ukraine - are in jail or under house arrest in Russia and the temporarily occupied Crimea for political reasons. 10 of them are Crimean Tatar citizen journalists. They were detained by Russian security forces for journalistic activities to cover the persecution of Crimean residents. Their cases are fabricated and handled with numerous violations of the right to a fair trial. Some of them were tortured to extract a guilty plea. In addition, since September 4, Russian security forces in Simferopol have five times carried out mass detentions of people who tried to attend court hearings against Crimean political prisoners. Among the detainees were six journalists.

We call on public authorities:

-to fulfill its obligations to protect the rights of journalists in accordance with the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights, the case law of the European Court of Human Rights and the requirements of the Court's decisions concerning Ukraine, as well as other international legal obligations of Ukraine. 

-to take appropriate measures to prevent violence, threats and attacks on journalists;

-to ensure proper, timely and high-quality investigation of crimes against journalists and bringing the perpetrators to justice;

-to refrain from any action that may be considered fomenting or inciting violence against journalists;

-to strengthen the practical activities of law enforcement agencies that ensure the protection of the right to freedom of speech and the right to access information;

-to protect journalistic activity, and not just persons with a press cards;

-to ensure effective investigation of the facts of persecution of journalists - citizens of Ukraine, as well as the facts of violation of freedom of speech and obstruction of journalistic activity in the temporarily occupied Crimea.

We demand that the Russian Federation, as the occupying power of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, immediately release journalists and all other Ukrainian political prisoners and cease persecution of journalists for their activities in Crimea. The Russian Federation, as an occupier country, must abide by its obligations under the international law, including respect for freedom of expression and other human rights.

We also call on journalists and media organizations to systematically cover violations of journalists' rights, as well as the quality and progress of investigations into such violations. Publicity and mutual support of journalists can be a factor that will improve the security of journalists in Ukraine. We also urge journalists to lodge complaints to law enforcement agencies in case of violation of their right to practice journalism.

Institute of Mass Information

ZMINA Human Rights Center

Center for Civil Liberties

Human rights platform

DIYA Human Rights Center

Kharkiv Human Rights Group

Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union

Suspilnist Foundation

NGO Detector Media

Crimean human rights group

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