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Ukraine - Violence against journalists amid growing authoritarianism

Source: Reporters Without Borders - Mon, 20 Jan 2014 07:40 AM
Author: Reporters Without Borders
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Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Reporters Without Borders condemns the violent attacks on journalists during clashes between demonstrators and security forces which erupted in Kiev yesterday and which are continuing.

At least 26 media personnel have so far been hurt while covering the protests and clashes. Most were injured by stun grenades, rubber bullets or other non-lethal projectiles. Fourteen of them said they were deliberately targeted by the security forces.

"The deliberate attacks on media personnel are unacceptable and must be fully and impartially investigated," Reporters Without Borders said. "We appeal to all parties to calm down and to respect news providers. Journalists arrested in connection with their work must be freed at once.

"Last week's attempt by the government to end the protests by adopting repressive legislation has clearly failed. The immediate repeal of these legislative measures, which show a complete contempt for civil society, is essential not only for the survival of Ukrainian democracy but also to defuse the current tension."

Reporters Without Borders added: "If the authorities fail to do this, they will give the impression of having deliberately chosen to make the overall situation much worse in order to seek political advantage."

The injured journalists include Vesti reporter Vyacheslav Veremiya and Spilno.tv cameraman Yanek Falkevich, who were hit in the face by stun grenades yesterday evening. Both could lose an eye.

A member of the special forces aimed at 5 Kanal cameraman Ivan Nakonechny. It was thanks only to his camera that he was protected (see video below). A stun grenade deliberately aimed at Yevgeni Feldman, a photographer for the Moscow-based independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, broke his nose. Freelance photographer Roman Pilipey was injured on the head by a brick thrown by a protester.

The complete list of injured journalists is available on the website of the Institute of Mass Information (IMI), a Ukrainian NGO that is a Reporters Without Borders partner.

Three journalists were arrested this morning. Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty reporter Dmytro Barkar and his cameraman Ihor Iskhakov were arrested as they were filming the clashes and were approaching the front line. Iskhakov was released but Barkar is still being held.

Spilno.tv cameraman Volodymyr Karaguyar was briefly detained when he tried to buy gasoline for the generator he was using to charge his equipment. The police accused him of intending to make gasoline bombs.

The extreme social polarization is affecting journalists. In the eastern region of Donetsk, employees of Novosti Donbassa, a news website that is actively covering the pro-European protests, said they had received many "unambiguous" threats on social networks.

Oksana Romanyuk, who heads IMI and who is the Reporters Without Borders representative in Ukraine, was again described as a "foreign agent" – a synonym for a spy – by the state TV station UT1 last weekend.

The latest wave of protests against President Viktor Yanukovych's government was triggered by the sudden adoption of legislation on 16 January that drastically restricts fundamental freedoms.

Around 200,000 protesters gathered in Kiev's Independence Square yesterday in defiance of a ban on demonstrations. Several hundred of them then headed towards the parliament building, leading to violent clashes with police and special forces.

Journalists wanting to cover these events will find security advice here.

(Photo: Genya Savilov / AFP, Sergei Supinsky / AFP)

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