Journalists are being exposed to unprecedented violence when they cover the ongoing protests and turmoil in Ukraine, where a legislative package drastically restricting freedom of information
took effect on 22 January.
“We reiterate our appeal
to all parties to act with restraint and to show respect for the work and the physical integrity of media personnel,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“The many acts of deliberate violence against journalists by members of the special forces and others must be fully and impartially investigated. Clear instructions must be given so that such behaviour, for which there is no justification, does not recur.
“We take note of President Viktor Yanukovych’s announcement that journalists arrested during the clashes will be released and we hope it will be implemented quickly and fully. But we point out the media will not be able to operate properly until the draconian laws promulgated on 17 January
Five demonstrators have so far been killed in the clashes and many reporters are among those who have been hurt. The number of journalists injured in connection with their work since 19 January currently stands at 47
. Most of the injuries are the result of rubber bullets or stun grenades fired by the “Berkut” riot police.
Rubber bullets were deliberately fired at two Associated Press
journalists, Yefrem Lukatski
and Dmytro Vlasov
, on 22 January, hitting Lukatski in the head and Vlasov in the groin. Like most of their colleagues, they were wearing vests with the word “Press.” Only their protective gear spared them more serious injury.
Freelance photographer Maksym Dondyuk
was injured in the leg on 22 January by a stun grenade that exploded at his feet and lashed his body with flying shrapnel. Stanislav Grigoryev
, a presenter with Russia’s REN TV
, is still hospitalized after being hit by a stun grenade during a live broadcast (watch video below).
Live rounds were fired at Yuri Gruzinov
, a cameraman with the Babylon '13
documentary project, while he was filming clashes on Hruchevskoho Street with a camera on a tripod in the early hours of 22 January. One of the rounds, about a centimetre in diameter, penetrated his body near his armpit, passing very close to his lungs.
Members of the special forces have often deliberately attacked journalists, damaging their equipment. The camera of an Inter TV
cameraman, for example, was smashed by a baton blow (watch video below).
Journalists began being targeted outside Kiev as the clashes spread to the rest of the country. Pro-government demonstrators sprayed Novosti Donbasa
reporter Violetta Tarasenko
with red paint and threw eggs at Tetyana Zarovna
, a journalist with the Gazeta.ua
news website, in the eastern city of Donetsk on 22 January.
, the editor of the local 0472.ua
news website, was badly beaten by unidentified attackers while filming opposition activists laying siege to the headquarters of the regional government in the central city of Cherkasy at around dawn yesterday.
Because of the scale and systematic nature of the violence, Reporters Without Borders has paid for the purchase of 50 helmets for use by reporters covering the current events in Kiev.
Journalists arrested and mistreated
, a Russian journalist with the Lenta.doc
documentary project, was arrested along with a group of demonstrators early yesterday morning and was badly beaten by Berkut members. He and the other detainees were forced to kneel in the snow for nearly an hour before being taken to a police station.
Kiselev was released yesterday afternoon after an initial charge of participating in violence was dropped, but he continues to be registered as a witness in the case. Freelance photographer Marian Havryliv
suffered a worse fate. He was taken out into the open countryside along with a group of detained demonstrators and was beaten. He is currently hospitalized under police surveillance.
cameraman Volodymyr Karagyaur
, who was arrested on 20 January
while buying gasoline for his generator, has been placed in two-months pre-trial detention on a charge of planning to make gasoline bombs, which carries a possible 15-year jail term. The only evidence against him is his presence at a gas station.
of the opposition newspaper VO Svoboda
, who was arrested while photographing a demonstration in the eastern city of Artemivsk from atop a Berkut bus with other reporters on 19 January, has been placed in two months pre-trial detention on a charge of organizing an illegal protest, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
Amid violence that is unprecedented since the end of the Second World War, journalists are also being subjected to intimidation. Vitaly Portnikov
, a reporter and political analyst with the opposition television station Tvi, fled the country on the evening of 20 January after being the target of a month-long smear campaign and being followed for the final week.
He also received threats, including a warning that he risked becoming “the second Gongadze
.” On 20 January, three unidentified individuals tried to force the door of his apartment, while uttering threats.
, a journalist with the LB.ua
news website, did not leave his home for several days after receiving threats that he was going to suffer the same fate as Ihor Lutsenko, an opposition activist who was kidnapped at the start of the week and subjected to a mock execution.
Another opposition activist who was kidnapped at the same time, Yuri Verbitski, was found dead on 22 January
. He bore the signs of torture.
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- Read our previous statements on the crisis in Ukraine
(Photo: Ilya Azar / Lenta.ru, Anatoliy Stepanov / AFP)