Category: Press Releases, Europe, Russia, Ukraine

IPI urges release of journalists in Ukraine

Says detentions by both sides in conflict ‘alarming’

A pro-Russia rebel takes a position following an Ukrainian army mortar attack in the outskirts of the eastern Ukrainian town of Kramatorsk on May 18, 2014. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

VIENNA, May 20, 2014 – The International Press Institute (IPI) today called on all parties in Ukraine to release detained journalists and to take steps to ensure journalists’ safety in advance of presidential elections scheduled for May 25.

“The degree to which pro-Russian separatists have detained and attacked journalists in Ukraine has been shocking, but the pattern of detentions by pro-government forces that we are now seeing is also alarming,” IPI Senior Press Freedom Adviser Steven M. Ellis said. “These actions victimise not only the journalists involved, but also the public, depriving people of the right to know what is happening in Ukraine.

“These violations are particularly egregious coming ahead of elections scheduled to take place this weekend. We urge authorities in Kiev to direct pro-government forces to allow journalists to do their jobs without harassment or intimidation, and we urge authorities in Moscow to publicly call on their supporters in Ukraine to do the same.”

The latest detentions came on Sunday, as forces loyal to Kiev detained two Russian journalists from the LifeNews channel in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk. The journalists, Oleg Sidyakin and Marat Saichenko, reportedly remain in government custody, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Opens external link in new windowyesterday asked the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to help secure their release.

OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic Opens external link in new windowyesterday condemned the continued harassment of journalists covering the conflict in Ukraine and said her office had contacted Ukrainian Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov to ask for Sidyakin and Saichenko’s release and for an investigation into the case.

Mijatovic, in a statement setting forth the latest media freedom violations in the region, also condemned the detention and beating on Sunday of two journalists in Russian-annexed Crimea. She reported that a group of people in military uniform in Simferopol detained journalists Osman Pashayev and Cengiz Kizgin of Otkritiy Krymskiy Kanal and seized their equipment before later releasing them.

IPI and its affiliate, the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), Opens external link in new windowhave registered dozens of incidents of violence, harassment and intimidation directed at journalists in eastern Ukraine since the current conflict began. The incidents have included not only detentions and seizures of equipment and interference with journalists’ ability to move freely and cover events, but also physical attacks, threats and, in some cases, disappearances.

Reports indicate that pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine continue to hold at least one journalist. The OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine in a Opens external link in new windowstatement issued Thursday said that separatists in Sloviansk are holding journalist and activist Irma Krat, who has been in their custody since April 20.

Mijatovic Opens external link in new windowearlier this month reported the disappearance of journalist Nikolai Ryabchenko in Mariupol. The Pryazov Worker newspaper Opens external link in new windowreported on Friday that Ryabchenko had been freed, but that account could not be immediately confirmed.

Additionally, Ukrainian authorities continue to hold Stepan Chirich, a Belarusian working for Russian NTV, under house arrest. He reportedly Opens external link in new windowstands accused of violating a law against using “special technical means of obtaining information” stemming from his use of a hidden camera.

>> For more information, contact IPI Senior Press Freedom Adviser Steven M. Ellis at +43 (1) 512 90 11 or by Opens window for sending emailemail.