The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) have appealed for all sides involved in the ongoing Ukraine crisis to ensure that journalists reporting on events are given free and open reporting access at all times.
Mindful of the precarious situation for journalists covering events, the IFJ and the EFJ have also advised journalists covering developments to take every precaution necessary to ensure their safety.
The calls follow reports that several journalists have been detained in Russia and eastern Ukraine in recent weeks, while Ukrainian journalists are said to have been denied access to eastern Ukraine by the information ministries of the self-declared people's republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.
On Friday 18 July, Yevgeny Agarkov, a reporter for the “Spetskor,” programme which is broadcast by Ukrainian channel 2+2, was arrested by Russian immigration officials near Voronezh, in southwestern Russia, for not being accredited with the Russian foreign ministry. An administrative court convicted him of “working illegally as a journalist” and sentenced him to expulsion from Russia and a five-year ban on re-entering the country. He was also ordered to pay a fine of 2,000 roubles (40 euros). He was moved to a detention centre 160km from the city of Voronezh and was expected to be released today, 29 July.
Last Tuesday, 22 July, British journalist Graham Philips, who works for the RT News Station in Russia, went missing at Donetsk airport while reporting on firefights. Unconfirmed reports said he was being held by Ukrainian troops along with a cameraman for Russia’s ANNA news agency. They were both subsequently released.
And last Thursday, 24 July, CNN reported that Ukrainian journalist, Anton Skiba, who works as a freelance for them, was being held by pro-Russian separatists who seized him outside a hotel in Donetsk on Tuesday night after he had worked for one day with a CNN television crew. He has since been released.
In eastern Ukraine there have also been reports of intimidation, violence and denial of access by Russian separatists against Ukrainian journalists. International correspondents are however allowed to access both sides of the conflict, provided they obtain the required accreditation.
The unequal treatment of reporters was most evident after the crash of Malaysian Airlines MH17. Reports say only a limited number of Ukrainian journalists were able to access the site and in most cases they concealed their affiliation, while last week the separatists in Donetsk also issued a widespread ban on all journalists in eastern Ukraine.
“The number of journalists being detained is clearly on the increase and there have been reports of journalists being detained by all sides involved in this conflict,” said IFJ President Jim Boumelha.
“We appeal to all factions to respect the rights and freedoms of journalists to report the truth without fear of intimidation, violence or detention.”
He continued: “We also urge the journalist themselves to stay alert at all times and to make their own safety a matter of paramount importance. They must take every security precaution required to protect themselves.”
For journalists working in Ukraine and other areas of conflict, please read the IFJ’s 'Ukraine: Media Safety Advisory' on its safety website which provides a range of practical safety steps for journalists working in the field including the appropriate protective clothing to wear and how to cope with difficult situations.
For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 17
The IFJ represents more than 600 000 journalists in 134 countries