Reported violations related to freedom of press doubled since 2013, violations of the category ‘assault’ nearly tripled, attacks on editorial offices in 2014 where almost eight times higher than in 2013. The data has been collected by the Institute of Mass Information, a Ukrainian civil rights NGO. (IMI, Jan 27)
The spike in numbers and intensity reflects the events around Maidan in the first half of 2014. After Syria and Palestine, Ukraine was listed by international organizations as the third most dangerous place for journalists. ”In 2014, in spite of the new government, we have never seen active investigations of assaults against journalists, or punishment of the aggressors’‘, says IMI media lawyer, Roman Holovenko. (IMI, Jan 27)
In 2015, Ukraine is still a challenging or even dangerous environment for journalists. ”IMI marks the growing number of intimidation and direct aggression against journalists, what can be connected to the general nervousness in the society caused by the situation of an actual war as well as to impoverishment. Officials and their subordinates express their disdain towards journalists and demonstrate their total lack of understanding that journalists are doing their jobs.” (IMI, Jan 29)
// Some non combat zone incidents in February:
– Arrest of Journalist Ruslan Kotsaba after he said he would rather go to jail for five years than fighting in east against rebels. Now he faces 15 years in jail for ‘treason and obscuring the military’. ”This is not a fight against Kotsaba as [a] journalist, but there are suspicions against him as a citizen of Ukraine”, as Markian Lubkivskyi from SBU was quoted. He further said that officers found ‘evidence of serious crimes’ among Kotsaba’s belongings. (Guardian, Feb 10)
– A news TV channel ceased a show which ”caused great outrage of the audience as it provided venue for pro-Russian propagandist declarations voiced by journalist Shevchenko. Savik Shuster [producer] himself thinks that it is not right to shield Ukrainians from the voice of the enemy altogether.” (IMI, Feb 18)
– In Kiev, journalists are consistently and systematically not allowed to sessions of parliamentary committees. Often without explanation as Oleksiy Bratushchak explains. The situation he describes is rather bizarre. (IMI, Feb 18)
– Social media posts appeared, promising USD 100 to 500 for any informations about any crimes committed by certain journalists (picture). This happened after ”broadcast a story about activities of Oleh Maltsev, who, according to the journalists’ information, is engaging in financial fraud in the field of medical treatment.” The source of the campaign could be traced back to Maltsev’s attorney. (IMI, Feb 18)
– The Ukrainian political system is corrupt as ever, it’s losing operational control over its territory, institutionally it is bouncing back to its authoritarian roots, economy sucks, war as well. People still stand by their government despite those problems, because of hopes for a new beginning, due to the rally around the flag or because there is no alternative. – It’s not the case that there would be no reason for another Maidan.
– It is one thing to accept grievances due to extraordinary situations. It is in a completely different box being censored and sanctioned for reporting or talking about grievances. If Ukraine wants to reform domestically, it needs a solid evaluation of the situation, a public discussion and something that controls people in charge. A free press can deliver this.
– Information has always been an asset in warfare, but since Gaza and Ukraine it has become a integral part of armed conflicts. Controlling information in order to mobilize or creating a tactical advantage is legit, but there is a clear red line. When free press is penetrated because of personal interests and sheer political survival, it’s beyond that line. If this happens systematically, it’s a problem, even in times of war. I am aware of the dilemma, but there isn’t any.