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"Someone was asked to pass a lie-detector test to receive accreditation": IMI lawyer on journalists' access to the front line

29.11.2023, 12:11

The UAF Commander-in-Chief's Decree No. 73, which regulates the proccess of accrediting Ukrainian and foreign journalists for work in the combat area, needs more work, said IMI lawyer Roman Holovenko on the air of Hromadske Radio.

"Journalists consult with the IMI on Decree No. 73. There was a case when someone was asked to pass a lie-detector test to receive accreditation. This is not formally stipulated, but it happened. Usually, when certain issues arise, journalists try to solve them in two-way dialogue with the military, because the military has the last word," said Roman Holovenko.

The IMI lawyer notes that the UAF Commander-in-Chief's Decree allows one to refuse accreditation at one's discretion. That is, if the authorities for any reason consider it inappropriate to accredit a journalist, the journalist will not be accredited.

He recalled that the Ministry of Defense received proposals for amendments to Order No. 73 from the Institute of Mass Information.

"The recommendations were primarily about the need to determine what this process should be called. If it is called accrediting, it falls under the Law 'On Information'. According to that law, accreditation is not mandatory and not a matter of obtaining a permit. The law clearly states that the lack of accreditation is not a legitimate reason to not let journalists through. In this case, we need to either rename this process and say that it is a 'permit-obtaining procedure for journalists to access the front line,' for example, or to make changes to the Law 'On Information'. Or we can agree to the requirements of the law, which says that accreditation is not mandatory," explains Roman Holovenko.

According to the lawyer, the Decree is primarily aimed at editors, but does not take freelance journalists, bloggers and public opinion leaders into account. The IMI also suggests defining one "entry point".

"We want to have a single 'entry point'. Now a journalist may coordinate everything with the headquarters, then with the commander on the spot, then coordinate his route and passage through checkpoints in order to get to the needed location without obstacle. Our logic is as follows: a designated person from the military – say, a press officer who approved the filing – must negotiate with the military on how this journalist will arrive, what will be filmed, and so on. It will be easier for them to do it than for a journalist in terms of internal communication," said Roman Holovenko.

Earlier, the Institute of Mass Information submitted basic provisions regulating the cooperation between journalists and the military to the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.

On June 8, 2023, the Canadian "Globe and Mail" wrote that the Ukrainian government had failed to renew the media accreditation for Anton Skyba, a photojournalist who has worked with The Globe and Mail since 2014, after it expired. The Ukrainian security services demanded a lie-detector test, accusing the reporter of holding a Russian passport and questioning whether his work is aligned with the country’s “national interests.”

After the backlash, Skyba's accreditation for covering the war in Ukraine was renewed until September 5, 2023.

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