News / Europe

Harassment and Misinformation Against Ukraine Journalists

Armed men check journalists documents around the regional parliament building in the Crimean city of Simferopol March 1, 2014.
Armed men check journalists documents around the regional parliament building in the Crimean city of Simferopol March 1, 2014.
Cecily Hilleary
The past week has been an unnerving week for journalists working in Crimea.  On Sunday, about 30 masked men stormed and briefly occupied [see video] the Crimean Center for Investigative Journalism in Simferopol, an agency which trains journalists and produces investigative TV reports. 

The following day, an unidentified individual assaulted Tatyana Rikhtun, chief editor of the Sevastopol-based news website 911Sevastopol, as she was filming Russian soldiers who had surrounded the Sevastopol headquarters of the Ukrainian navy. Her attacker also seized her camera.
 
The European Federation of Journalists says 167 journalists have been injured in Ukraine since the beginning of the political crisis in November 2013, 42 of them in mid-January alone. 

One journalist, Vyacheslaqv Vereymi, died February 20 after a brutal attack, and untold numbers of journalists report being threatened, harassed and intimidated—among them, reporters from Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty.  
 
“Certainly it is a challenge to cover events in Ukraine nowadays,” said Maryana Drach, director of RFERL’s Ukrainian service.  “Our Crimean correspondent has recently faced threats. Our Kyiv colleague and video journalist who was sent to Kharkiv was beaten by pro-Russian activists while he was conducting a live broadcast. 

"Then they took him from the occupied regional administration building to the monument of Lenin in Kharkiv and forced him to kneel down and kiss the Russian symbol--the St. George’s ribbon which commemorates Russians who fought and died in the Second World War," she said.
 
Drach relates another incident involving a RFERL stringer in Donetsk conducting man-on-the-street interviews. 
 
“She saw a group of people were beating a journalist colleague, and when she approached them, she herself was beaten and her camera was broken,” Drach said.  “There have been three incidents with RFERL Ukrainian service correspondents within the last week alone, so I’m seriously concerned about the safety of my colleagues.”
 
Drach says a group of RFERL reporters in Crimea were asked by locals, which side of the crisis they supported. 

“When they told them, ‘We are journalists,’” Drach said, “they were told that if they weren’t ‘pro-Russian,’ they weren’t ‘journalists.’ So this is the atmosphere in which journalists must now work in Crimea.”
 
On Thursday, independent journalist Dimiter Kenarov, reporting in Crimea for the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, tweeted, “Masked gunmen just broke in a TV studio. Put a gun to my head and then took my phone away. I'm fine.”  He later posted video of the incident (see below)
 



Silencing media outlets
 
Monday, Crimea's State Television and Radio forced off the air a popular independent broadcaster Chernomorskaya Teleradiokompaniya, or Black Sea television, leaving only the state broadcaster operating in the entire autonomous republic.  
 
Also this week, the Committee to Protect Journalists reports that  on the orders of the pro-Russian prime minister of Crimea, two privately-owned Ukrainian broadcasters, Channel 5 and Channel 1+1, were forced to stop broadcasting terrestrially, and Russian state television is now broadcasting on their frequencies.
 
Countering Misinformation
 
With Crimean media effectively under Russian control, Ukrainians have begun organizing to counter what they say is a flow of misinformation FakeControl.org and StopFake.org are websites that seek to dispel myths and misinformation being propagated by Russian media outlets.

The Ukrainian Crisis Media Center (UCMC) launched March 4 with the stated mission of providing the international community objective information about events in Ukraine and “threats to national security”
 
“We are a group of different professionals from different fields in international relations in corporate and public communications, in translations," said spokesperson Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, executive director of Yalta European Strategy (YES), the largest social institution of public diplomacy in Eastern Europe. 

"And we feel that Ukraine is under a serious security threat of losing its sovereignty and territorial integrity and really needs an additional serious voice delivering the message to media outside Ukraine and also to people in Ukraine’s southeastern regions and Crimea,” she said.
 
Members donate their time and expertise, says Klympush-Tsintsadze, to make sure that information gets out—on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube

In addition, they have rented a conference hall in a Kyiv hotel near the site where so many protesters died on January 20, where they will host press briefings by Ukrainian authorities, academics, diplomats, religious leaders—“people, “ Klympush-Tsintsadze,
said.

She added they will include those “who have serious weight in society--Crimeans, Tatars, Russians, Jews, Christians--who will explain what is going on in the country.” 
 
In Washington, U.S. Agency for International Development Assistant Administrator Paige Alexander said her agency was working with the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine and local journalists to help ensure the free flow of information around the country.
 
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media warned that Ukraine faces a crisis of media freedom. 
 
Speaking to reporters in Kyiv Friday following visits to Crimea and Simferopol,  Dunja Mijatović, the top OSCE official on media freedom  called on responsible parties to stop the war on information in Ukraine and work to ensure the safety of reporters across the country.
 
She also cautioned that Tatar journalists with Crimean state media are under political pressure from their superiors and that TV officials allow access to information only to those considered ‘loyal’ – or pro-Russian -- journalists.

You May Like

Photogallery Strong Words Start, May End, S. African Xenophobic Attacks

President Jacob Zuma publicly condemned rise in attacks on foreign nationals but critics say leadership has been less than welcoming to foreign residents More

Video Family Waits to Hear Charges Against Reporter Jailed in Iran

Reports in Iran say Jason Rezaian has been charged with espionage, but brother tells VOA indictment has not been made public More

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Action to Stabilize Libya

Amnesty International says multinational concerted humanitarian effort must be enacted to address crisis; decrepit boats continue to bring thousands of new arrivals daily More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs