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War reporters say there is a list of journalists allowed into the "red zones" (video)

28.03.2023, 11:09
Photo: lookatmedia
Photo: lookatmedia

Ukrainian war reporters say there is censorship and selectivity in terms of who among journalists is allowed into the "red" zones of the front line. They demand that the authorities give them the opportunity to continue working.

This is stated in a video address published on Facebook by Radio Liberty journalist Maryan Kushnir on March 27.

The journalists claim that there is a "list of exceptional journalists from selected media outlets", who are the only ones to have privileges when it comes to accessing the "red" zones.

"We are correspondents covering the Russian-Ukrainian war. We film. We take photos. We write articles and record audio reports. Since 2014, and not since February 24, 2022, we have been talking about the soldiers on the front line and civilians in frontline towns and villages. And it is more than just a job for us. This is our contribution to Ukraine's future victory. And our chance to avenge those whom the enemy took away from us forever," the address says.

Journalists point out that they always insisted on having an opportunity to fulfill their mission.

"The Russian-Ukrainian war has been going on for over nine years. We never asked for benefits, awards or insurance from the state. Instead, always and everywhere, we insisted on having an opportunity to fulfill our mission. We have accreditation from the Ministry of Defense, the relevant skills and experience, the safety gear, as well as the trust of the military and volunteers, which has been built up over the years and is simply invaluable and fundamental for journalists to work in wartime.

"But instead of fighting with the Russians, we have to fight the Ukrainian government, which has decided to censor the war. The prohibition to work in the 'red' zone, where civilians still remain. The additional permits for getting into certain places. Creating exception lists for journalists from selected media, which for some reason are the only ones to have preferential access to the 'red' zones. And the main thing is the lack of any dialogue, any explanations or arguments. The main problem is that most of the front line is off limits for all journalists," the war reporters say in the address.

At the same time, the journalists note that they understand the wartime necessity of certain restrictions, but "the existing ones are taking away any opportunity for us to work." "At the moment, we are having a significant problem work on the front line, because journalists effectively can only film the artillery and the rear. Certain sections of the front line remain completely off limits for the press. Freedom of speech is a value we are fighting for. Photo and video recording is an important part of the information war, as well as our future information heritage, because the photo and video chronicle for future generations is being created right now. We do not want to be on the list of the 'trusted' ones. We wish there would be no such lists in Ukraine at all. We do not ask for preferences. But we demand that our work be respected and that we be able to keep doing it," said the war reporters.

The video address was recorded by: Anna Kudryavtseva, Channel 5; Kostyantyn Melnykov, "Fakty", ICTV; Maryan Kushnir, Radio Liberty; Anastasia Fedchenko, "Novynarnia"; Stas Kukharchuk, "Inter"; Yulia Kiriyenko, TSN, "1+1"; Tatyana Nakonechna, "Fakty", ICTV; Ihor Levenok, "Inter"; Yehor Loginov, "Donbas. Realii" (Radio Liberty project); Olena Maksymenko, freelance journalist; Ruslan Smeshchuk, "Inter"; Oleh Kornienko, "Fakty", ICTV; Yevhenia Kinasiva, Channel 5; Olha Omelyanchuk, Radio Liberty; and Natalia Nahorna, TSN, "1+1".

In a comment to the IMI, "Novynarnia" journalist Anastasia Fedchenko noted that she had learned about the lists from her colleagues.

"I believe that the very existence of such lists is nonsense that should not occur in a democratic country, even amidst hostilities. The front line should be open for journalists," the journalist said.

She noted that the "traffic light", i.e., the introduced zoning, is a normal practice around the world, and that journalists do understand the military in terms of the expediency or lack of such in letting media work in places where the fighting is going on.

"But the 'traffic light' may give room for manual control: if some commander simply does not want to cooperate with journalists, he will be able to 'change' the zoning of his own will. He may say: you can't work here because it's a 'red' zone," the journalist emphasized.

In his comment to the IMI, ICTV journalist Kostyantyn Melnykov reported that they had heard reports that the journalists allowed into the prohibited zones will mostly be TV journalists from the "United News" telethon.

"We learned that the military had received a list of 'trusted' people who would be allowed to work in the off-limits zones! Mostly, these are journalists from TV channels partaking in the 'United News' telethon. But not everyone there, either. The goal of our address is there would be no lists at all. We understand how important the work of the army is. And sometimes it should be happening in complete silence. We are in favor of everyone having the chance to work and being in equal conditions. So that no one is 'equaler' than others. We are for clear and understandable working conditions!" the journalist stressed.

He added that he had learned from his own sources that he was not on the list. "For what reasons and what motives – unclear. I can not talk about refusal now, because my business trip is in a week. Previously, there were problems with certain areas. But not along the entire front line," Kostyantyn Melnikov said.

The IMI has written to the UAF General Staff for a comment on the media restrictions at the front line and on the existence of a list of selected journalists.

As the IMI reported, on February 27, UAF Commander-in-Chief's Decree No. 73 regarding engagement with the mass media during martial law was amended. According to the changes, journalists will only receive accreditation for a period of up to six months, and the frontline area will now be divided into three access zones for media workers.

Earlier, representatives of the media community proposed to create a task force at the President's Office to improve the way their engagement with the military is regulated, and submitted their proposals on improving communication between journalists and the military to the UAF General Staff.

On March 20, the Donetsk Oblast Military Administration outlined the three zones for journalists of accredited media outlets in region – the "red", the "yellow" and the "green".

The three zones were also outlined in the areas under the jurisdiction of the operational and strategic group of troops "Odesa".

On March 20, the Media Movement, as well as Ukrainian and foreign journalists called the new excessive restrictions on the work of the media during martial law unacceptable and called for an immediate resolution of the situation with access to coverage of the hostilities and their consequences.

The international human rights organization "Reporters Without Borders" called on the Ukrainian authorities to lift the restrictions on journalists' access to covering the hostilities as well.

Later, liaison officers explained that the division of the front line and the border areas into three working zones for journalists will be revised weekly. The issue of granting the media access to any specific spot in the "red zone" for covering a situation that requires it will also be considered promptly.

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