Ukrainian police attack reporter covering protest against Covid-19 lockdown

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns an assault by Ukrainian police against a reporter who was filming an anti-lockdown protest in Kiev on 29 April and calls on the authorities to enforce the country’s legislation penalizing violence against journalists.

"Either you take your camera or I break it," a policeman was heard to say to reporter Bohdan Kutepov during his live coverage of the protest outside government headquarters for the web TV Hromadske. His coverage also included the act of physical aggression by the police officers.

Although Kutepov was filming the crowd of demonstrators in their entirety from a nearby park, the police ordered him to leave and then pushed him to the ground, damaging some of his equipment.

The National Bureau of Investigation (GBR), which "polices the police" in Ukraine, is investigating this incident as an "abuse of authority" under article 365-2 of the penal code. But there have been many other cases of threats and acts of aggression and intimidation against journalists since a public health emergency was declared in part of the country on 20 March.

"It is unacceptable for the police to join in the wave of violence that Ukrainian journalists have suffered since the start of the public health crisis," said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. 

"This trend threatens the foundations of Ukrainian democracy and must be urgently reversed. The investigation that has been opened must be conducted with complete transparency, and the law providing for specific sanctions in cases of obstruction of journalists and threats and violence against them must be applied in an exemplary fashion."

The latest reported attack on the media took place on the evening of 1 May, when freelancer Nikita Knysh was physically attacked by a group of youths while covering respect for lockdown measures in the northeastern city of Kharkiv.

Ukraine is ranked 96th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 07.05.2020