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Poltava journalists say the police barred them from accessing Russian shelling spot

09.04.2024, 16:38

"Poltavska Khvylia" journlaists say the police interrupted their work as they were reporting on a rocket strike on an apartment building in Poltava on April 8.

The media outlet reported this on their website and to the IMI representative in the Poltava oblast.

That day, two journalists with "Poltavska Khvylia" arrived document Russia's crimes, but the police did not let them access the shelling site.

As the editors note, Yevhen Rohachov, head of the Poltava Oblast National Police HQ, explained that "policemen are guarding the perimeter, as the scene is under investigation."

"Rohachov claims that this was the reason why the journalists were not allowed to document the aftermath of the strike. However, the policemen did allow other civilians to enter the scene. Such as, say, assistants of deputies," the "Poltavska Khvylia" team wrote.

In a comment to the IMI representative in Poltava, "Poltavska Khvylia" chief editor Vitaliy Ulybin said that this was yet another instance of miscommunication between the authorities and the special services following a rocket strike on Poltava.

"Accredited journalists who have been routinely working in combat areas for two years, both at military and civilian facilities, arrived at the scene but could not enter it to document and film. The high-ranking police officers cited the Criminal Procedure Code and simply said that no journalists were allowed due to the ivestigation and possible risks. 'Your life will be at risk there,' they said," Vitaliy Ulybin commented.

He added that the "Poltavska Khvylia" journalists have received special training and should be able to decide for themselves whether they consent to working in dangerous places.

"This is our specialty, and we fully realize that this work implies putting one's life and health in danger. Unfortunately, it is evident that the special services, the military and the authorities in the Poltava oblast, lacking experience (which is good, of course), simply do not know how to act in such a situation. There is no clear mechanism for implementing the Commander-in-Chief's Decree No. 73," said Vitaliy Ulybin.

In his opinion, this situation can only be resolved through constructive dialogue between all the parties.

"It is inadmissible when assistants of deputies get to freely access the shelling site even though the benefit of them being at the site as opposed to the headquarters working to alleviate the consequences and provide aid to the victims is quite dubious," believes the "Poltavska Khvylia" chief editor.

The "Rada TV" filming crew (correspondent Anna Ruzhin and her cameraman) also faced obstruction when trying to access the shelling site.

"The police didn't let me in even when the fire had been extinguished and the debris had been cleared away. I went around to the other side, because my family's apartment nearby was damaged and I had to find them. But again, I could only get as close as the next house," Anna said.

In a comment to the IMI representative in Poltava, the Poltava Oblast National Police HQ press officer Yuriy Sulayev explained that the police did not limit the work of journalists:

"They were told journalists would be allowed to enter and film anything they needed after the operational team is done investigating. Journalists were able to work at the scene of the incident after the operational team fulfilled their task. SBU investigators were working on the spot, they made the place off-limits. We defined the perimeter to be inspected and investigated it together with the SBU, with the police assisting under the procedural guidance of the Prosecutor's Office," Sulayev said.

According to him, cetain territory was off-limits to civilians so as not to interfere with the work of investigators, as required by the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine, and journalists were allowed to film at a safe distance.

Yuriy Sulayev also said that he has no information on whether deputies' assistants were allowed on the site and exactly which assistants those were.

Oksana Romaniuk, executive director of the Institute of Mass Information, notes that the police appeared to want to cite the Criminal Procedure Code.

"But I don't see Article 237 mentioning an investigator's right to make the place under inspection off-limits to outsiders, let alone journalists. So I suppose, we can talk about the unlawful restriction of the rights of journalists in this case," Oksana Romaniuk stressed.

She reminded that according to Part 4 of Article 25 of the Law of Ukraine "On Information", a media worker has the right to collect information in areas of natural disasters, disasters, accidents, mass disturbances, military actions and in territories where a state of emergency, or quarantine has been declared after presenting a document certifying the journalist's affiliation, except for cases specified by law.

"The Criminal Procedure Code, the Law of Ukraine 'On the Approval of the President's Decree On the Introduction of Martial Law in Ukraine', the UAF Commander-in-Chief's Decree No. 73 and other legal documents do not provide for restrictions on the work of journalists in this case," said Oksana Romaniuk.

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