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Year 2015: summary for freedom of press in Ukraine – IMI

31.12.2015, 15:41

In 2015, in the territory of Ukraine not under occupation, there were 301 registered violations of the freedom of press (as of December 24), which is three times less than in 2014 (995 cases).

This is the data of annual survey of the Institute of Mass Information «Freedom of press barometer».

Together with Crimea (43) and the occupied territories of Donbas (16), this year the total number of violations of freedom of press is 360 cases.

The category with the largest number of violations was impediment to lawful professional activities of journalists (100 cases), which is by 1.5 less than the year before (in 2014 - 150, in 2013 – 130 cases of impediment). According to IMI data, the peak of impediments to journalists was in September and October of 2015, during the pre-election campaign for the local elections. The people who were impeding journalists most were the members of election commissions, who either did not know the legislation on elections or did not wish to respect the journalists' rights.

the second place by number of cases is held by beatings and assaults against journalists - 58 cases, which is five times less than last year (in 2014 - 286 cases, in 2013 – 97). The prevailing number of cases of assaults against journalists in 2015 were committed by private individuals and unidentified people (unlike the same acts in 2014 and 2013, when the assaults were chiefly commited by law enforcement officers and local officials).

Threats and intimidation also made it into top three by the number of registered cases. In 2015, 36 such cases were registered, which by almost three times less than last year (in 2014 - 98, in 2013 - 35).

Among the negative tendencies noticed by IMI in 2015, the number of cases of restricting access to public information for journalists increased. This year, there were registered twice as many such cases (33), compared to last year (14), in 2013 - 13 cases. In 2015, the access for journalists was restricted, mainly, to the bodies of local self-government (oblast councils, oblast state administrations, city councils).

In addition, this year, according to IMI records, 2 journalists were killed (in 2014 – 7, in 2013 - none).  On February 27 in Pisky, Donetska oblast, photo correspondent of newspaper "Segodnia" Serhiy Nikolaev was killed in mortar shelling. According to his colleagues, he was wearing armored vest bought for the money pooled by his colleagues from various media outlets. Due to this, IMI addressed top managers and owners of mass media, emphasizing that sending journalists to combat zone without adequate protective gear, without medikits and without basic knowledge of first aid is a faulty practice. On April 16 in Kyiv unidentified people shot and killed the pro-Russian writer and blogger Oles Buzyna. Police says that the main version in this case is that the murder is related to his professional activities.

The militants of "LPR" hold hostage Luhansk fixer and freelancer Maria Varfolomeyeva, who was detained as she video recorded the footage of housing at Luhanska street on January 9, 2015. For comparison, in 2014 IMI registered 79 cases of journalist kidnappings and holding them hostage.

12 cases of censorship were registered, which is by 11.5 cases less than in 2014 (138).

In the Crimea annexed by Russia, 43 cases of freedom of press violation were registered. On the peninsula, Russian special services, Roskomnadzor, and occupation Crimean authorities pressured mass media. Russian FSB suspected journalists in «extremism», some mass media, such as the Crimean Tatar channel ATR, were forced to cease operation due to Roskomnadzor denying them license for operation on the occupied peninsula. Many editorial offices were forced to leave Crimea.

On the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, militants of so-called “LPR” and “DPR” during this year were detaining journalists, scrambling and blocking Ukrainian TV and radio channels, attacked and vandalized the homes of journalists, issued decrees on banning Ukrainian media from covering certain activities of theirs (not admitting Ukrainian journalists to events).

In 2015, the regions that are leaders in anti-rating of violations are the following (occupied territories are not included):

  • Kyiv city (60), Kyivska oblast (5) - 65
  • Mykolayiv region - 21
  • Odesa region - 20
  • Chernivetska oblast - 16
  • Kherson region - 16
  • Donetsk region - 16
  • Zaporizhzhya - 15
  • Volyn  - 14
  • Kherkiv region - 11
  • Rivne region - 10
  • Ternopil region – 10

For comparison, in 2014, the majority of cases took place in Kyiv (256), in the East (Luhanska oblast - 91 cases, Donetska - 197 cases) and in Crimea (148).

In spite of reduction of offences against freedom of press in the country this year, the problem of impunity is still on the table. According to the data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, in 2015 only in 11 cases indictment were composed for offences described in Article 171 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (impediment to legal professional activities of journalists). It is still more than in 2014 (6 cases sent to court, in 2013 – 5 cases).

For more details about freedom of press, please refer to web-site of IMI in section «Freedom of press barometer».

Institute of mass information conduct monthly national level monitoring of freedom of press in the following categories: physical aggression, censorship and access to information, economic and political pressure, legal pressure, cyber-crimes against mass media and journalists. The monthly report includes only cases related to freedom of press and professional journalist activities. More details about the methodology can be found here.

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