Reporters Without Borders: Local Self-Proclaimed Government in Crimea Declares War Against Journalists

Kyiv, 12 March 2014 – Since Russian occupation began in Crimea on 27 February, 63 cases of violation of freedom of speech have occurred during which 67 journalists were injured or otherwise harmed, said Oksana Romaniuk, the representative of Reporters Without Borders and Executive Director of the Institute of Mass Information (IMI), at a press briefing held at the Ukrainian Crisis Media Center. “Local self-proclaimed government has declared war against journalists”, she said. 

“In these conditions, publicity is the best help to both local journalists and local population, whose right to information has been restricted significantly”, said Ms. Romaniuk. She urged journalists to go to Crimea and cover the situation on the ground. The representative of Reporters Without Borders stressed, however, that all journalists who travel to Crimea should pay special attention to their personal security, try to not attract attention and refrain from walking alone.

She says that at least 6 journalists were not allowed by the Russian troops to enter the peninsula. Two of them – Tyzhden photojournalist Olena Maksymenko and Glavkom journalist Oles Kromplias – were abducted and held captive for two days. 24 journalists have experienced physical assault: they were beaten, their equipment stolen and destroyed, they were ransacked, robbed of data storage devices and blocked. In addition, IMI has recorded 11 cases of interference, censorship and denial of access to governmental institutions for journalists and 8 cases of threats to journalists.

Ms. Romaniuk stressed that the local self-proclaimed government has introduced harsh information blockade at the peninsula and today there are practically no Ukrainian media left in Crimea. 7 local mass media have been subjected to different degrees of pressure which ranged from seizures of editorial offices by armed people with Russian flags to power shutdown and disconnection from the internet. Internet media are under constant DDOS attacks.

Ms. Romaniuk also said that new rules for journalists are to be introduced for the period of referendum which contravene the Ukrainian laws and do not comply with the international standards. In particular, journalists are required to obtain a special permit to work at polling stations. Also, the mass media are not allowed to publish ‘negative’ or critical information. “Local population has no access to information, and local journalists are under pressure”, she emphasized.

Oksana Romaniuk is the Executive Director of the Institute of Mass Information, representative of international journalist organization “Reporters Without Borders”.