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TV crew harassed while reporting on drowning

(IMI/IFEX) - Employees of a Kyiv passenger river-boat agency damaged the camera of STB TV channel, according to STB TV journalist Oleksandra Mitina. According to the 26 June 2009 online edition of Ukrayinska Pravda, the incident occurred on 23 June 2009.

Mitina and STB cameraman Oleksander Kubrytskiy were shooting video footage of the the river boat "Ay-Petri", where a young person had fallen overboard and drowned 10 days earlier.

While the STB crew was filming the boat, an unknown woman came out the office of the river-boat agency and demanded that the crew switch off the camera. Then, she tore out the camera's microphone and returned to the office. The journalist and the cameraman tried to get inside the agency's office, but were unsuccessful. After 15 minutes, they called police and only then did another person from the agency come out and return the microphone to them.

"In one hour, the police arrived", Mitina said. "There were four policemen. At once, they ordered us to switch off our camera. If we did not, they said they would seize it," she added. Police officers then recorded the journalists' depositions and spoke to the river-boat agency employees. However they did not let the journalists participate in that conversation.

One of the police officers told Mitina that seizing the camera was not a crime. Also, the head of the public relations department of the general administration of the Kyiv police, Volodymyr Polishchuk, said that if someone took possession of something that costs only 907 hryvnias (approx. US$117) no criminal proceedings could be initiated against that person. They also said that it is only up to the General Prosecutor's Office to decide whether the journalists could be barred from working or not.

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