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Authorities in Ukraine Must Investigate Attack on Journalists
Freedom House is alarmed by the violent attack on journalists covering an opposition demonstration in Kyiv, Ukraine on May 18, and calls of the authorities to conduct a full investigation and bring the attackers to justice. Any further delay in investigating the attackers, at least some of whom are apparently known to the authorities, is an abandonment of the authorities’ responsibility to ensure the safe and unhindered work of journalists and contributes to impunity of those who attack them.
Olga Snytsarchuk from the TV station 5 Canal and Vlad Sodel, a photographer from the newspaper Kommersant, were beaten while filming a demonstration by activists from the opposition party Svoboda. The demonstration was attacked by unknown men in track suits wielding bottles and teargas. The two journalists, who were observing and reporting on the attack, were then targeted themselves, apparently in retaliation for their coverage. Reports indicate that the numerous police officers in the area stood by as the journalists were attacked and pleading for assistance, allowing the attackers to flee and intervening only after the journalists had been seriously injured.
Authorities were reportedly refusing calls to look into the attack until a demonstration was held in Kyiv today by approximately 150 journalists, demanding an investigation. Despite announced plans of an investigation, there is no sign that authorities are moving swiftly or decisively against the alleged attackers, some of whom have been publicly identified in videos of the attack.
Freedom House’s Freedom of the Press 2013 report noted “an escalation in threats and attacks on journalists” in the run-up to the October 2012 Rada elections. Prosecutors and police have regularly failed to take action against suspects identified in past attacks, leading to a culture of impunity.
Freedom in the World 2013: Ukraine
Freedom of the Press 2012: Ukraine
Freedom on the Net 2012: Ukraine
Nations in Transit 2012: Ukraine
Sounding the Alarm Round 2: Protecting Democracy in Ukraine
Blog: Freedom at Issue