Ukraine: Impunity continues amid lack of action over journalists beatings

A person touches a portrait at the memorial for died Maidan activists during memorial ceremony devoted third anniversary of the Euromaidan beginning in the central of Kiev on November 21, 2016. Euromaidan, was a wave of demonstrations and civil unrest in Ukraine, which began on the night of 21 November 2013 with public protests at Independence Square in Kiev, demanding closer European integration. The scope of the protests expanded, with many calls for the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych and his government. The protests led to the 2014 Ukrainian revolution. SERGEI SUPINSKY / AFP

Journalists and media organisations in Ukraine have renewed calls for an end to impunity for crimes against journalists and action to protect the safety of media professionals.   The issue was discussed at an event on « impunity for crimes against journalists in times of Euromaidan » organised by the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine (NUJU), an IFJ affiliate.   NUJU reports that hundreds of journalists were injured during Euromaidan demonstrations in Ukraine in November 2013 - February 2014. According to NUJU’s data, 271 domestic and foreign journalists were beaten (except Kiev, most attacks took place in Kharkiv, Cherkassy, Dnipro, Zaporizhzhya, Odessa and Crimea); 9 were arrested and detained, 14 attacks took place in newsrooms  and 31 threats of physical violence were reported.   Two journalists were killed in Kiev in February 2014. NUJU reports that "titushkos" (mercenary agents who supported the Ukrainian police force during the administration of Viktor Yanukovych) killed Vesti newspaper journalist Vyacheslav Veremiy and student and journalist Igor Kostenko on the Maidan. The union continues to denounce the impunity surrounding Vyacheslav Veremiy’s murder.   NUJU has registered about 60 new cases of attacks against journalists during the Euromaidan demonstrations. In most cases journalists have been attacked on duty while duties covering protests in Kyiv and in the regions. NUJU says that authorities should be held accountable for these attacks.  « Three years have passed and no one has been held guilty for these acts », said acting Chairman of NUJU Sergiy Tomilenko.   The Head of the Union says that the prosecutor's office admits the guilt of security forces. A letter sent recently to the NUJU by the Prosecutor General of Ukraine says that the « staff of unit "Berkut" in November 2013 during a protest events in Kyiv on the Maidan consciously beat journalists to prevent them from capturing events on video and photos. »   However, this acknowledgment is not enough and those responsible must be brought to justice.   NUJU is seeking to draw attention to the systemic problem of impunity for crimes against journalists.  It recently initiated a street action in Cherkassy, where many journalists went to police officers with placards demanding justice for beating their colleague photographer Igor Efimov.   « They knew I was a press worker, but it did not stop them » recalled Igor Efimov. « We must fight to the end. Truth must win. »   In cooperation with the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), NUJU is conducting a large-scale national campaign to fight against impunity for crimes against journalists.   « Investigations into the cases of journalists attacked are incomplete and superficial, not mentioning those that simply exonerate journalists’ killers from any pursuit,” said Philippe Leruth, IFJ president. “We support NUJU in their campaign and ask for due respect for press freedom in Ukraine and no impunity for journalists’ attackers”.