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

    California Republicans Mull Choices in Presidential Race

    Ted Cruz tells California Republican Convention delegates the campaign will be 'a battle on the ground, district by district by district,' ahead of the June 7 primary

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, many Kurds are trying to escape turmoil by focusing on success of football team Amedspor

    South African Company Designs Unique Solar Cooker

    Two-man team of solar power technologists introduces Sol4, hot plate that heats up so fast it’s like cooking with gas or electricity

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora