On 6 November, in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine held parliamentary hearings on “Safety of journalists in Ukraine: problems and solutions”
At the parliamentary hearings, the human rights defenders and Crimean mass media raised an important issue on restriction of freedom of speech, elimination of independent journalism and harassment of journalists in the temporarily occupied Crimea by Russia.
A former political detainer and Ukrinform reporter Roman Sushchenko noted that reporting under the occupation was especially important and highlighting situation in the occupied territories, journalists often paid not only freedom but their lives. Sushchenko announced the names of all journalists, harassed in Crimea and those, held in Russian and Crimean prisons.
During the Crimean occupation, the human rights defenders have documented at least 369 cases of harassment against journalists with at least a hundred of them occurred in the first month of the forced occupation of Crimea. More than dozen of criminal proceedings, launched against the Crimean bloggers and reporters, including Andriy Klymenko, Mykola Symena, Anna Andriyevska and others. Ten publishing companies and about a hundred of journalists were forced to leave the occupied territory for mainland Ukraine.
Today, about 90 Crimeans are held in the Crimean and Russian prisons on the politically motivated grounds, such professional and civilian reporters as Nariman Memedeminov, Server Mustafayev, Osman Arifmemetov, Remzi Bekirov, Tymur Ibrahimov, Rustem Sheihaliev and others are among them. Memedeminov has already been convicted, and others face from ten years to life imprisonment in strict-regime colonies.
The Head of the Human Rights Center “Zmina” Tetyana Pechonchyk told more about the repressions of the RF occupying authorities against the Ukrainian journalists in Crimea. She noted that for the last three years Crimea turned into the “peninsula of fear”, surrounded by the “wall of silence” where an independent media research did not exist. And now, according to the assessments of the international organization Freedom House, Crimea ranks second to last in the world on the situation with the respect to freedom of speech, leaving behind only such countries as Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and North Korea.
Tetyana Pechonchyk is confident that it is necessary to work for the freedom of prisoners, including those who suffered due to their civil and journalistic activity and pursue the imposition of personal sanctions from our foreign partners against the persons violating the journalists’ rights in Crimea.
The project manager “Crimea.Reality” Volodymyr Prytula reminded about pressure the “Crimea.Reality” faced in Crimea since March 2014 and gave an overview of the correspondent network activity of the project in temporarily occupied Crimea and harassment against journalists by the occupying authorities.
After the marginalization of the Ukrainian mass media from Crimea, blocking of TV channels, radio, internet-sites, civic journalism has begun to develop vigorously. The ordinary concerned citizens actively use social networks for making posts from the courtrooms on cases of political detainers, reporting live from the places of searches and mass detentions, interviewing victims of the illegal actions of the security forces.
Human rights defender Emil Kurbedinov stressed that the civic reporters actually became the only independent source of information in Crimea. “Risking their lives, despite numerous threats, arrests, penalties and psychological pressure, they do their work. And “Crimean Solidarity” plays a great role in promotion of civil journalism, providing its activity more than two years in Crimea”, the advocate noted. Kurbedinov emphasized that the RF exercised pressure on civic journalists, including activists under criminal procedures in the Russian prisons.
“By all rights, civic journalists should be free of all forms of persecution and be able to collect and disseminate the information about their compatriots, fellow believers in their native land as well as highlighting military and other crimes, kidnappings, pressure, tortures against civilians”, the advocate concluded.
The human rights defenders called on:
- the journalists, affected by the oppression of freedom of speech in the occupied Crimea to apply to the law enforcement agencies, international criminal courts, particularly to the European Court of Human Rights;
- Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to support the Draft Law “On social and legal human rights protection of persons, imprisoned due to the armed aggression against Ukraine”, as some of them are imprisoned due to their journalistic activity;
- The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine to simplify the access of foreign reporters and human rights defenders to Crimea.