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ZHAR.INFO reporters not allowed to enter the Khmelnytsky administration to get a comment

13.09.2023, 14:27

In Khmelnytsky, a reporter and a cameraman of the local media ZHAR.INFO were not allowed into the regional administration hall. The journalists wanted to get a comment from the first deputy head of the Khmelnytsky Oblast Military Administration, Serhiy Tyurin, regarding aid to the Hruzevytsya residents who were affected by the Russian shelling.

Media journalist Alyona Bereza informed IMI about this.

The incident took place on August 28, but the journalists only shared the details two weeks later, hoping the situatuin would get addressed. However, reporters could not get the comments they wanted.

Prior to that, the editors contacted Tyurin personally and asked the press office for his comment three times during August. Having received no response, the journalists decided to personally go to the first deputy's reception room in the morning of August 28 to try to get a comment.

According to Alyona Bereza, they wrote to Tyurin and the press office on August 16, 18 and 21, but received no reply.

"This situation spanned many days. Back on August 16, I informed Serhiy Tyurin at a public event that we needed his comment on the aid provided to the Hruzevytsya people and that I would contact the press office when I receive the information I requested. Having received a response to the first request on August 18, I contacted the management of the relevant department, which is responsible for all communication. No result. I wrote to them again on August 21. No result, ignored again. On the morning of August 28, I contacted them once more. Ignored yet again, so my cameraman and I decided to go straight to the administration to get an explanation of what is really happening and why we are being ignored," said Bereza.

When the filming crew arrived to the administration building on August 28, they introduced themselves to the security guards, who wrote down their personal details in the registration log, and told the security that they were heading to the reception hall to see the first deputy. After taking this information down, the guards asked the journalists whether they "got an approval for their visit" and refused to let the media into the building.

The security guards asked the journalists to leave the checkpoint and wait. The reporters disagreed and asked them to contact the administration staff who could help resolve the issue and help them get a comment. The guards replied that the building was a "military object" and pointed their weapons at the journalists.

After the incident, the media called the police and wrote a statement about obstruction of journalistic work. The patrol officers were the first to arrive at the scene, followed by the investigation group, which accepted the statement and recorded the explanations of the guards.

Initially, the application was considered by the police. However, since the security officers are members of the National Guard, it was forwarded to the State Bureau of Investigation.

As Alyona Bereza noted, as of now no police officer had come into contact with them. After the incident, the reporters tried multiple times to get a comment from the administration, but to no avail.

IMI lawyer Roman Holovenko noted that a journalist has the right to freely visit the premises of subjects of authority.

"A journalist has the right 'to freely visit the premises of subjects of power, open events held by them, and to be personally received within a reasonable time by their officials and staff except for cases specified in the law' (Clause 2, Part 1, Article 11–1 of the Law on State Support of the Media). But giving comments is a right, not an obligation. This is not a matter of access to (already existing) information – the comment involves the creation of new information. Therefore, I would advise the media who requested a comment and received none to write in their report that such and such official did not give a comment," the lawyer explained.

ZHAR.INFO operates on the basis of the public organization "Women's Anti-Corruption Movement".

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