Outlets raided, journalists harassed in eastern Ukraine

New York, April 8, 2014–At least three news outlets and two journalists have been attacked and harassed in the past three days in eastern Ukraine, according to news reports and press freedom groups. 

Tensions have been on the rise in eastern Ukraine following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March, and a statement on Friday by ousted president Viktor Yanukovych, who said that each Ukrainian region should hold a vote to define its status. Since then, pro-Russia activists have clashed with authorities, stormed government buildings, and declared some cities in eastern Ukraine “independent republics,” news reports said.

“All actors in eastern Ukraine must respect journalists’ right to gather and disseminate information to the public,” said Muzaffar Suleymanov, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia research associate. “By investigating these attacks and bringing the perpetrators to justice, Ukrainian authorities can demonstrate their commitment to democracy.”

On Monday in the eastern city of Kharkiv, a group of armed and masked assailants raided the newsroom of the independent broadcaster ATN, told journalists they were being fired, and damaged equipment and furniture before leaving the building, the broadcaster reported. A video, published online by ATN, shows the extent of the damages, which include broken computers, studio equipment, and damaged furniture. Although police were at the scene, no one has been detained in connection with the attack, ATN said.

Also on Monday, masked men armed with Kalashnikovs tried to enter the newsroom of regional broadcaster Donetsk OGTRK, in the eastern city of Donetsk, news reports said. After finding out the broadcaster was guarded by police, the attackers shot several times into the air, then fled, a video of the incident shows. The same day, masked men tried to storm the newsroom of the television channel Irta in the eastern city of Lugansk and fought with the broadcaster’s security agents, news reports said.

At least two journalists were attacked on Sunday while covering protests in Lugansk and Kharkiv, according to the Kiev-based press freedom group Institute of Mass Information (IMI). In Lugansk, an unidentified man hit the head of Aleksei Movsesyan, a cameraman with the local television station LOT, IMI reported. The journalist reported the attack to police, who said they were investigating. In Kharkiv, men harassed, pushed, and tried to seize reporting equipment from Grigory Pirlik, a journalist with the independent broadcaster Ukraina, IMI said.

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