One-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: journalism under attack

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Source/Author: EFJ

Today, one year after the Russian Federation launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Partner Organisations to the Safety of Journalists’ Platform remember the colleagues who lost their lives while covering the war, those who have endured injury, abduction, torture and suffering and express full support for all journalists who report truthfully about the war. According to alerts published on the Platform, to date, twelve journalists and media workers have been killed while covering the war, or in connection with their profession, and 23 others have been injured.

The Partner Organisations condemn the threats to the lives and safety of journalists and media workers resulting from Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and call for enhanced protection of all who cover the war. In situations of conflict, the free and unhindered exercise of journalism is especially important to safeguard the right of the public to be informed.

The Partner Organisations will continue documenting attacks on media workers and attempts to restrict coverage of the war, as well as exposing potential war crimes to facilitate accountability and bring those responsible to justice.

Even though the Russian Federation is no longer part of the Council of Europe, the Partner Organisations pledge to continue monitoring the state of press freedom and attacks against journalists in that country. The clampdown on journalists and media workers in Russia, including the passage of a number of new laws, which criminalised accurate reporting on the realities of the war, hamper documentation of war crimes and violations of international humanitarian law.

The Partner Organisations remind the authorities of the Russian Federation of their obligations and commitmentsregarding the protection of journalists in situations of conflict and tension, in accordance with international humanitarian and human rights law. These commitments are set out in the 1949 Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, and were cited in UN Security Council Resolution 2222, in particular:

  • Journalists and media workers operating in areas of armed conflict must be treated and protected as civilians and allowed to perform their work without undue interference. Attacks intentionally targeting journalists, as civilians, constitute war crimes. All states should do their utmost to end impunity for such criminal acts. States engaged in armed conflict should instruct their military and police forces to give necessary and reasonable assistance to journalists when they so request. They should disseminate the relevant instructions to their military and civilian authorities to make them aware of all these obligations.
  • States should facilitate the access of journalists and their equipment to the territory concerned by providing the necessary documentation and permissions. They should refrain from taking any restrictive measures against journalists, such as denial, withdrawal of accreditation or expulsion, on account of their exercise of their duties or the content of their reports. States should apply these provisions in a non-discriminatory and non-arbitrary manner in their dealings with journalists, whether foreign or local.

The Partner Organisations also urge media organisations to take all possible preventive and protection measures for the physical safety of journalists and media workers; and to provide them with adequate training and preparation before undertaking dangerous missions in situations of conflict and war.

Signed:

  • Justice for Journalists Foundation
  • Index on Censorship
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Association of European Journalists (AEJ)
  • International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • PEN International 
  • ARTICLE 19
  • European Broadcasting Union
  • Rory Peck Trust (RPT)
  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

Background

On 24 February 2022 the Russian Federation launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

According to alerts published on the platform, at least twelve journalists and media workers were killed while covering the war, and 23 others were injured.

On 26 February the Ukrainian photojournalist Ihor Hudenko died while filming in Kharkiv. On 1 March Russian missiles struck the radio and TV tower in Kyiv, killing the cameraman Yevheniy Sakun. On 13 March the United States reporter Brent Renaud was killed when his vehicle came under fire in Irpin. On 14 March the French Irish camera operator Pierre Zakrzewski and the Ukrainian journalist Oleksandra Kuvshynova were killed while reporting from Horenka. On 23 March the Russian journalist Oksana Baulina was killed by a missile while covering the shelling of residential areas in Kyiv. An investigation by Reporters without Borders (RSF) suggests that the Ukrainian photojournalist Maks Levin, whose body was found on 1 April, was likely executed by Russian soldiers near Kyiv on 13 March. On 30 March the Lithuanian documentarian Mantas Kvedaravičius was killed after being abducted by Russian soldiers in Mariupol. Yevgeny Bal, a writer and member of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, died on 2 April after being detained and tortured by the Russian military. On 13 April Roman Nezhyborets and Zoreslav Zamoysky were found killed in Yahidne and Bucha respectively under circumstances that remain to be determined. On 30 May the French reporter Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff was killed after an evacuation vehicle came under fire near Severodonetsk.

In the Russian Federation, the invasion went hand in hand with a crackdown of unprecedented severity on free press and independent journalism. On 4 March 2022, the authorities fast-tracked laws that criminalise the use of information sources other than the official propaganda outlets. New criminal offences ban “public and wilful dissemination of knowingly false information about the Russian army and the exercise of powers by the Russian public authorities abroad”, “discreditation of the Russian army or the exercise of powers by the Russian public authorities in defending the interests of Russia and its citizens and in maintaining international peace and security”, “calls for sanctions against Russia, its citizens or legal entities”. All the above incur long prison sentences.

Dozens of media outlets were closed or suspended their operations and many journalists who criticised or wrote factually about the war were harassed, detained and given harsh sentences. Many were added to the “foreign agents” register, which carries heavy administrative obligations, and foreign journalists were stripped of their accreditation. The state media regulator Roskomnadzor assumed unrestrained control of content on Internet platforms and search engines, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram were blocked, and Meta Platform Inc. was added to the list of terrorist and extremist organisations.

The Safety of Journalists Platform

The Platform is managed by the Council of Europe in co-operation with 15 prominent international NGOs active in the field of the freedom of expression and associations of journalists, to address serious threats regarding media freedom and safety of journalists in Europe.