Paris, 25 May 2016
Dear President Poroshenko,
Reporters Without Borders, an international organization that defends media freedom, would like to refer you to the website Myrotvorets’ repeated publication of the personal data of thousands of journalists. We think this offence is all the most serious because these journalists are accused of “collaborating with a terrorist organization’s combatants” for the sole reason that they were accredited with the separatists “authorities” in Donetsk. This unwarranted charge puts these journalists in danger and compromises their ability to work in the sensitive Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
As many observers have already noted, publishing this list clearly constitutes a violation of the Ukrainian law on the protection of personal data. We would like to point out that it also constitutes a violation of media freedom, which is enshrined in the Ukrainian Constitution, article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Obtaining accreditation from the separatist authorities is just a protective measure for journalists. It does not in any way constitute a sign of support and even less so complicity with the “Donetsk People's Republic” (DNR). Many journalists named by Myrotvorets have nonetheless received threats from “patriots” likening them to separatist combatants. Even more disturbingly, a number of politicians have supported this initiative by Myrotvorets. This must have reinforced its feeling of impunity and encouraged it to release a “more complete” list on 20 May. The next day, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) announced that it was “verifying” these lists and examining them for possible spies disguised as journalists.
As the President of Ukraine, you are the guarantor of its Constitution and the rule of law in your country. You also stand at the head of a government that is supposed to follow the political line set by you. We are therefore of the view that, as well as the legal proceedings brought against the website, a public statement by you is essential in order to rein in this campaign of intimidation and deprive it of any official character. We also urge to instruct the interior ministry and SBU to end any ambiguity on this matter.
We are fully aware of the immense difficulties that Ukraine is currently facing and we do not doubt that the tasks incumbent upon you are delicate. However, your responsibilities towards journalists and freedom of information are at stake in this matter.