Slideshow: Covering protests in Crimea

Coverage of street demonstrations is an exceptionally dangerous assignment, with journalists subject to assaults, obstruction, detention, raids, threats, censorship orders, and confiscation or destruction of equipment. This report is one in a series of three by Getty photographers who documented for CPJ their recent experiences covering protests and shared their photographs.

By Spencer Platt/Getty photographer

The random and arbitrary nature of the violence against reporters and photographers was part of the landscape of reporting in Crimea over the past two months. What made the situation truly chilling was the absence of any real identity of the individuals attacking members of the press or of what actions could provoke the hostilities.

More in this series
Covering Venezuela

I personally witnessed from my car window a group of masked men with assault rifles throwing four reporters–all with media identification hanging from their necks–to the ground before taking their equipment. The incident lasted no longer than 30 seconds and seemed to be part of a pattern in the city of Simferopol. In late March, the Hotel Moscow–where many members of the international press were staying–was raided by masked men in camouflage with guns.

While these incidents rarely led to arrests, they served a greater purpose of spreading fear and paranoia among members of the media. After a certain point, a kind of “self-censorship” commenced, in which certain groups of pro-Russian supporters weren’t photographed for fear of the repercussions.