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Journalists harassed, detained and denied entry to Ukraine

Masked pro-Russian men attack British journalist Frederick Paxton during the mass storming of a police station in the Ukrainian town of Horlivka, 14 April 2014.
Masked pro-Russian men attack British journalist Frederick Paxton during the mass storming of a police station in the Ukrainian town of Horlivka, 14 April 2014.

AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) have issued a renewed appeal for all sides involved in unrest in Ukraine to respect the rights and freedom of journalists covering events.

The call follows media reports that many Russian journalists have been prevented from entering Ukraine, while local and international journalists have been harassed, abused, detained and had equipment seized. News outlets have also been attacked and broadcasting signals have been disabled.

The incidents have taken place amid increasing tension in Ukraine, with pro-Russian activists occupying buildings in more eastern towns.

According to the latest media reports, over 20 journalists and crews from around a dozen Russian news outlets have been denied entry to the country over the past few days. Journalists with the newly reshuffled RIA Novosti news agency, TV channels Russia and Russia Today, the business daily Kommersant, and Forbes-Russia magazine are said to have all been turned down at the border. Reports say that Ukrainian border officers alleged the journalists did not have sufficient funds to enter the country.

On Saturday, a BBC TV crew was threatened and had their equipment broken by a pro-Russian mob in the city of Slavyansk, in the north of the Donetsk region, while a local journalist was attacked by the same group. And yesterday, in the eastern city of Horlivka, masked men attacked Frederick Paxton, a British photojournalist who works for the independent news website Vice News, and confiscated his reporting equipment.

Also on Saturday, journalists with the Ukrainian online broadcaster, Hromadske TV, and Russian news website, Lenta, were briefly detained by unidentified armed men who barred them from reporting in Sloviansk. The journalists were attempting to cover a raid by armed men on a local police station.

While on Monday, at least seven masked men are reported to have raided the offices shared by independent local news website Gorlovka and newspaper Kriminal Ekspress in Horlivka, and detained Aleksandr Belinsky, chief editor of Gorlovka.

These incidents follow last month's news that authorities in Kiev moved to shut down the broadcasting of Russian TV channels, with media reports stating that 50% of providers throughout Ukraine have disabled broadcasting of foreign channels.

“We continue to be deeply concerned by the continuing violence against journalists and media organisations reporting on events in Ukraine,” said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. “We strongly condemn these blatant and underhand attempts to undermine media freedom.

“We demand that all factions involved in the ongoing unrest respect the freedom of movement and rights of all journalists and media organisations reporting on events in the country. This abuse of media professionals covering events in Ukraine must end immediately.”

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
What other IFEX members are saying
  • Anti-press attacks rise as tensions escalate in Ukraine

    On April 2, Russian border guards briefly detained a crew from the Ukrainian Channel 5 when the journalists tried to cross into Russia from Ukraine to film the movement of Russian tanks, the independent news website Ukrainska Pravda reported. The journalists were released the same day, but one of them, Oleg Krishtopa, was reportedly told he was considered a persona non grata in Russia.

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