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Incidents of aggression decreasing, but press freedom climate remains grim

Institute of Mass Information

This statement was originally published on imi.org.ua on 4 July 2015.

Physical aggression against journalists in Ukraine has started to decrease. For the first half of 2015, IMI experts registered 23 assaults against journalists in Ukraine, which is almost 11 times less than in the same period of 2014 (249 assaults), and 1.5 times less than in the second half of 2014 (37 assaults). This data is provided by the Institute of Mass Information's monthly monitoring "Freedom of Press Barometer."

The worst region in Ukraine in regards to adherence of freedom of the press is in occupied Crimea, where 29 violations were registered – more than in any other region of Ukraine. In comparison – in the territories of Luhanska and Donetska oblasts that are not controlled by Ukraine – there were 10 registered violations.

According to IMI data, the number of cases of obstruction to lawful professional activities of journalists in Ukraine has decreased. In the first half of the year, 34 such cases were registered (in the first half of 2014, there were 47 cases). We can also observe a reduction in cases of censorship and denial of access to important information, with 25 cases registered (compared to 39 in the second half of 2014). The number of threats and intimidation attempts decreased as well — there were 22 cases in the first half of 2015, compared to 48 during the corresponding previous period.

As IMI expert Kateryna Diachuk says, in the last half year, the greatest number of violations was registered in the category of obstruction. "Out of 34 cases, most of the times, the obstructing entities were representatives of the judicial branch of power (7 cases), after them, security guards in both private and public institutions (5). Sadly, 'leaders' here are also deputies of city councils and employees of oblast state administration (4 and 3 cases, correspondingly). Most often, obstruction was encountered by journalists in Mykolaiv (5 cases), in Zakarpattya (4), and in Kyiv, Rivne, Odesa and Kirovohrad (3 cases each)."

Institute of Mass Information

Assaults against journalists were most often observed in Odeska oblast (6 cases), then in Chernihivska oblast (3) and Cherkaska oblast, Kharkivska, Lvivska and Kyivska oblasts (2 cases in each one).

Mostly, the journalists were assaulted and beaten by unidentified men — 5 such cases in the [first] half [of the] year. Then, assaults were conducted by village and rayon council members (deputies) and people wearing camouflage uniforms (3 cases each). Heroes of the story also recorded or documented representatives of "LPR", "DPR" and activists — 2 cases each.

"Regardless of statistical data that indicates certain improvement of the situation with the freedom of press in Ukraine, the status quo still remains alarming. Most likely, the observed reduction in physical aggression and pressure against journalists is related to absence in this period of any prominent political events, elections, and a comparatively stable situation in the East of Ukraine. Unfortunately, there are no any external factors that would indicate systemic stabilization of the situation — meaning systematic punishment of those who assault journalists, investigation of such crimes. This probably means that improvement in the freedom of press is most likely only situational," says IMI executive director Oksana Romaniuk.

Please find full description of cases included into Freedom of Press Barometer at this link.

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