Ukraine: Summary of attacks on media [July 2014]

Reporters Without Borders | 22 July 2014

Besides its regular press releases, Reporters Without Borders is maintaining a Ukraine news feed in order to summarize the violations of freedom of information constantly taking place in Ukraine.

21.07.2014 – Ukrainian journalist to spend 10 days in solitary in Russia

Yevgeny Agarkov, a Ukrainian reporter for “Spetskor,” a programme broadcast by Ukrainian channel 2+2, was arrested by Russian immigration officials near Voronezh, in southwestern Russia, on 18 July for not being accredited with the Russian foreign ministry. Later the same day, an administrative court convicted him of “working illegally as a journalist” and sentenced him to a fine of 2,000 roubles (40 euros), expulsion from Russia and a five-year ban on reentering the country.

The court stipulated that his expulsion would take effect on 28 July, pending which he was to be detained. He was transferred to a detention centre 160 km from the city of Voronezh and was placed in solitary confinement.

Agarkov’s prolonged detention is disproportionate, especially as he is being held in an isolation cell,” said Johann Bihr, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “This journalist is being treated like a criminal although all he did was contravene the administrative code. We urge the Russian authorities to free him and return him to Ukraine without delay.”

Agarkov went to Voronezh to cover the case of Nadezhda Savchenko, a Ukrainian pilot who is being held there for alleged complicity in the deaths of Russian journalists Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin, who were killed by mortar fire in the Luhansk region (in eastern Ukraine) on 17 June.

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20.07.2014 – Rebels arrest ten journalists outside Donetsk morgue

Around ten journalists were arrested by the security services of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk (PRD) when they tried to enter the morgue in Donetsk on 19 and 20 July as part of their coverage of the downing of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 on 17 July, in which 298 people died.

Those arrested outside the morgue on 20 July included Kevin Bishop, a British reporter for the BBC, Anna Nemtsova, a Russian reporter for The Daily Beast, Simon Shuster, a US reporter for Time Magazine, Italian journalist Lucia Sgueglia, and two reporters for the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, Paul Hansen and Jan Lewenhagen. They were all taken to the local headquarters of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), where they were questioned and then released a few hours later. A Russian TV crew with Russia Today that was arrested in similar circumstances on 19 July was held overnight before being released.

Nemtsova said the rebels posted outside the morgue had been given orders to arrest all journalists trying to go inside. When a Russia Today cameraman asked PRD Prime Minister Alexander Borodai at a news conference why he had spent a night in detention, Borodai responded with a joke: “You’re not a real journalist if you haven’t spent a night in the SBU.”

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17.07.2014 – Bomb hoaxes at two national TV stations

The Kiev police received an anonymous message on 17 July warning that a bomb had been left inside the premises of Inter, a national TV channel owned by oligarch Dmitri Firtash. A search of Inter revealed nothing suspicious. The police are trying to identify the source of the anonymous call.

Earlier in the day, an anonymous message reported that a bomb had been left at 5 Kanal, a national TV station owned by President Petro Poroshenko. Its offices were evacuated and searched but no trace of explosives was found. It was the third false bomb alert at 5 Kanal this month. The previous ones were on 4 and 15 July. Each time 5 Kanal was forced to interrupt programming.

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16.07.2014 – Rebels seize Luhansk news site’s computer equipment

Serhiy Sakadynski, the editor of the Luhansk-based news website Politika 2.0, revealed on 16 July that anti-Kiev rebels removed all of its computer equipment, cameras and video cameras during a raid on its offices on 10 July. The raid took place after they caught a Politika 2.0 reporter taking photos of Luhansk railway station, accused her of spying, and decided that Politika 2.0 was “gathering information about the rebels.” They gave Sakadynski a beating during the raid and took him with them when they left, releasing him the next day after influential persons intervened. The equipment has not been returned.

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11.07.2014 – Heavy toll on journalists in first half of 2014

The Institute of Mass Information (IMI), a Ukrainian NGO partnered with Reporters Without Borders, has released figures for media freedom violations during the first half of 2014. According to IMI’s tally, six journalists were killed in connection with their work, 249 were injured or attacked, and at least 55 were taken hostage or detained arbitrarily. The toll was much higher than in 2013, when a total of 101 attacks on journalists were registered during the entire year, half of them in connection with the Maidan Square protests in November and December.

“Physical attacks against journalists and other media workers currently pose one of the main challenges for the media profession,” said IMI director Oksana Romanyuk. “The authorities also face the challenge of investigating all these [attacks] and punishing those responsible. Ending impunity […] and defending the public’s right to information should be one of the main items on the new president’s agenda.”

Read the IMI report (in Ukrainian).

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10.07.2014 – Luhansk TV channel suspends broadcasting

A Luhansk-based TV station called Luhansk Cable Television (LKT) has suspended broadcasting because of the ongoing fighting in the city. The stations’s CEO told employees on 10 July he could not longer guarantee their safety and was putting them all on leave until further notice. The wife of LKT’s legal adviser, Igor Zazimnik, was killed by a stray bullet on the balcony of her apartment the same day. Two other local TV broadcasters, IRTA and LOT, have also had to suspend operations.

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08.07.2014 – Ukrainian TV crew under mortar fire near Luhansk

Roman Bochkala, a reporter for the Ukrainian national TV channel Inter, and his cameraman, Vasyl Menovshchikov, found themselves under mortar fire near Metallist, a village ten kilometres outside Luhansk, on 8 July while covering operations by the Ukrainian army’s 30th regiment.

Bochkala broke an arm and tore tendons while scrambling over a 5 or 6 metre embankment in search of shelter. After being treated in a field hospital, he was transferred by helicopter to a hospital in Kharkov. Two soldiers were killed during the mortar bombardment.

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05.07.2014 – Masked men attack national daily in Kiev

Around 50 masked men attacked the Kiev headquarters of the Russian-language newspaper Vesti on 5 July, pelting it with stones and setting off teargas before dispersing quickly. Some of them injured a security guard while trying to enter the building. The stones they threw broke windows and damaged computers.

The attack was claimed by Oles Vakhni, an ultra-nationalist who served a six-year jail term on charges of armed robbery and violence. The police said they were treating it as a case of “vandalism.” Vesti owner Igor Guzhva linked it to the demonstration that parliamentarian Igor Lutsenko staged outside the newspaper the week before with the declared aim of “ending the dissemination of anti-Ukrainian propaganda.” Lutsenko said the protest would be “the last peaceful action” against Vesti.

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04.07.2014 – Rebels take control of Luhansk regional state broadcaster

Armed rebels in combat fatigues representing the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Luhansk stormed into the headquarters of the Luhansk region’s state radio and TV broadcaster on 4 July. After they had taken control of the premises and negotiated with the CEO, Rodyon Miroshnik, all the employees were allowed to leave. One of the rebels said the regional broadcaster’s various channels were now “closed” and would remain so until they resumed “under a different format.”

The previous week, local cable TV operators LKT and Triolan dropped most of the Ukrainian TV news channels from what they offer, replacing them with Russian news channels.

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02.07.2014 – Two journalists held for two days in Luhansk

Ukrainian citizen TV station Hromadske’s well-known reporter, Anastasia Stanko, and her cameraman, Ilya Beskorovayny, were released by representatives of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Luhansk (PRL) on 2 July after being held for two days in Luhansk.

After trying for a long time to obtain PRL accreditation without success, they arrived in Luhansk on 30 June hoping to obtain permission on the spot to do a report there. They were put in touch with a security unit, which promised to protect them in return for financial compensation. But they were arrested by another unit, the NKVD, and were held in the basement of a downtown building. PRL Prime Minister Vasil Nikitin said he suspected them of spying for the Ukrainian army.

Their detention prompted a great deal of concern in both Ukraine and Russia. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko asked the relevant authorities to do everything they could to obtain their release as quickly as possibly. But it was thanks to the intercession of the heads of Russia’s three leading pro-government broadcasters – Pervy Kanal, VGTRK and NTV – that the PRL finally decided to free them. Stanko said that, on the whole, they were treated properly aside from being threatened with decapitation.

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01.07.2014 – Two Russian journalists injured in Luhansk region

Denis Kulaga, a staff reporter with Russia’s REN-TV, and his cameraman, Vadim Yudin, were treated for shock in a Luhansk region hospital on 1 July after a mortar shell exploded close to them when they were about one kilometre from the Russian border, near the Izvarino border post.

http://en.rsf.org/ukraine-summary-of-attacks-on-media-12-05-2014,46265.html

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