RSF opens press freedom centre in Lviv, first bulletproof vests delivered

The secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) was in the city of Lviv, in western Ukraine, yesterday for the inauguration of RSF’s press freedom centre, located within Lviv’s International Media Centre. Two weeks after the invasion of Ukraine and one week after announcing the press freedom centre’s creation, RSF has opened it.

“We have come here to express our solidarity with Ukrainian journalists and to provide them with the best possible assistance with covering the war,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. 

Accompanied by Oksana Romaniuk, the director of Ukraine’s Institute of Mass Information (IMI), and Alexander Query, the centre’s coordinator, Deloire described the activities of this now operational hub in western Ukraine.

The first individual sets of protective equipment for journalists were distributed during the past few days with the help of the Berlin-based Network for Reporting on Eastern Europe (n-ost) and the Swedish press group Bonnier. 

Bonnier collected 30 bulletproof vests and helmets from its various media outlets (Dagens Nyheter, Dagens industri and Expressen), with help of the Schibsted group and the Swedish national broadcaster, Sveriges Television.

“We will distribute bulletproof vests in the country’s hottest spots,” Romaniuk said, referring to the violence against journalists covering the war in Ukraine during the past few days. Since the start of the Russian offensive, at least 12 journalists have been deliberately targeted by armed combatants and four – two reporters for the Danish newspaper Ekstra-Bladet and two members of a crew reporting for the UK’s Sky News TV – have sustained gunshot injuries.

RSF has called on the Polish and Ukrainian authorities to facilitate the provision of bulletproof vests to the centre. The circulation of equipment needs specific permits that hold up their swift delivery in Ukraine. Deloire has also urged democratic countries to issue visas to journalists and to call on Russia to respect UN Security Council Resolution 2222 on protecting journalists.

“We hail the courage of journalists,” said Query, the centre’s coordinator. “With this centre, we are fighting for the independence of the media in Ukraine and beyond it.” This week, the centre will begin providing training in physical safety and first aid to journalists attending in person or by video-conference.

The Amsterdam based Free Press Unlimited (FPU), specialised in media development, is contributing to the activities of the Lviv Press Freedom Centre.

UNESCO is also contributing to the Press Freedom Center in Lviv and, among other activities, is enabling the Ukrainian translation and distribution of the Safety guide for journalists: a handbook for reporters in high-risk environments. 

RSF would like to thank the city of Lviv for its hospitality, as well as the Limelight Foundation and the Adessium Foundation in the Netherlands, the Schöpflin Foundation in Germany, the King Baudouin Foundation in Belgium, the Oak Foundation in the United Kingdom, the Fritt Ord Foundation in Norway and the Open Society Foundations.

The RSF Lviv Press Freedom Center is now located at Rynoq Square 32, in Lviv, Ukraine, and can be contacted via [email protected]

Ukraine is ranked 97th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index while Russia is ranked 150th.

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Updated on 16.03.2022