Last Updated: Friday, 30 September 2016, 16:22 GMT

Ukraine: Investigate attacks against journalists during protest clampdown

Publisher Article 19
Publication Date 9 December 2013
Cite as Article 19, Ukraine: Investigate attacks against journalists during protest clampdown, 9 December 2013, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/52a991544.html [accessed 30 September 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The Ukrainian authorities should swiftly investigate the substantive allegations of police attacks against at least 52 journalists. In many of the reported cases, the journalists seem to have been targeted by the police. It seems that this targeting was a result of the journalists reporting on the police forces' use of violence against peaceful demonstrators. It also seems that the police attacked even though the journalists were clearly identified as journalists.

The Ukrainian authorities should ensure adequate protection for journalists, who should be allowed to inform the public of critical events taking place in Ukraine freely and independently.

Protests in late November - early December

Since 22 November, people have been gathering together in protest in Ukraine, calling for greater integration with the European Union. Over the course of the following week, these had protests spread right across the cities and towns of Ukraine.

By the weekend of 30 November and 1 December, thousands of protesters had settled in Independence Square, the main square in the centre of Kyiv. Early on 30 November, at around 4am, police moved in without warning to evict them forcibly.

Throughout that weekend, ARTICLE 19 received reports from a number of local organisations saying that protesters had been beaten by police. We were told that the police had targeted over 50 journalists and media workers, and as many as 20 doctors.

ARTICLE 19 joined Ukrainian and other international organisations from the Civic Solidarity Platform in Kyiv in monitoring and observing the protests and the police's responses during the nights of 1 and 2 December.

Attacks on media workers

On 1 December, ARTICLE 19 received detailed reports that at least 36 named media workers had been attacked during the forcible and violent dispersal of protesters in the early hours of 30 November.

By 4 December, a total of 52 named media workers had been reported as having been attacked by the police. These cases were verified by the Centre for Civil Liberties, a human rights organisation leading the monitoring work in Kyiv.

The majority of those attacked were wearing press badges, and clearly indicated to the Berkut (special police forces) that they were journalists. In some instances they were told to stop recording or filming. The following journalists are included in the list of those who were attacked.

Roman Kupriyanov, a cameraman for Euronews was filming a man who had collapsed on the pavement after being beaten by special police forces. The police told him to stop filming. When he continued to film, he was beaten by the special police forces, resulting in concussion and hospitalisation.

Evgeniy Maloletka, a photo-correspondent from the Ukrainian news agency UNIAN reported that he was beaten by special police forces despite being clearly identified as a journalist. The bones in one of his hands were broken, his camera lens was broken and his flash bulb trampled on.

Polish journalist, Pawel Pieniążek was reporting on the events taking place around the Presidential Administration. As he did so, he was hit on the head several times by the police, despite shouting "Don't hit me!" and showing his press badge.

The rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly

The rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are closely related and are crucial to the functioning of any democracy. Peaceful protests play an important role providing a platform for critical opinions to be voiced in the public interest and ensuring that governments are more accountable.

Violence against journalists is an attack on the right to freedom of expression. Journalists play a vital role in providing a wide and varied range of information to the public. The presence and active engagement of the media, including those using social media, provides an additional safeguard for peaceful protestors' rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.

International law on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly

International law very clearly requires that States protect, promote and respect the right to freedom of expression, including media freedom, at all times, including during protests. By targeting journalists who are covering protests, the Ukrainian authorities risk depriving people of information. They also risk creating a climate of fear and a culture of self-censorship, both of which are incompatible with the basic principles of a democratic society.

International law clearly states that force should never be used against peaceful protests, and that non-peaceful protests should only be dispersed as a last resort and in exceptional circumstances. The excessive use of force against peaceful protesters under any circumstances violates international law.

Furthermore, any use of force by the authorities against protests, whether peaceful or violent, must comply with the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials and the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials. States must do everything in their power to ensure that the right to life and the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment are upheld. Each of these rights is absolute and cannot be derogated from, even during emergencies. Additionally, States must investigate any death or injury that occurs as a result of the use of force by law enforcement authorities.

ARTICLE 19's calls on the Ukrainian authorities

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Ukrainian authorities to fully respect and promote all human rights in the context of peaceful protests. These must include the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly.

The authorities must ensure that:

There is speedy, independent and effective investigation into law enforcement agencies' (or any other perpetrator's) use of force when dispersing protests;

Those responsible for any wrongful use of force are brought to justice, and victims given adequate redress;

Journalists and media workers are allowed full access to report on the protests and any police operations as a result;

Any obstruction or hindrance of the media's freedom during protests, including violence or the threat of violence, is speedily, independently and effectively investigated

Anybody obstructing or hindering media freedom is brought to justice and forced to give adequate redress to victims;

Ukraine engages fully in a Council of Europe initiative to set up an expert advisory panel. The panel should consist of one member nominated by the Ukrainian opposition, one member nominated by the government and one member taken from the international committee to oversee the investigation into the violence on 30 November and 1 December 2013.

- See more at: http://www.article19.org/resources.php/resource/37392/en/ukraine:-investigate-attacks-against-journalists-during-protest-clampdown#sthash.zj2Cvx25.dpuf

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