New York, April 25, 2014–The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the release of two journalists in eastern Ukraine and calls for the release of a third journalist who has not been heard from since April 15. Sergei Lefter, reporter for the Warsaw-based Open Dialogue Foundation, is reportedly in custody of pro-Russian separatists led by Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, the self-proclaimed “people’s mayor” of Sloviansk.
“Journalists should not be treated as pawns during this crisis and should be allowed to report freely,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “We call on all sides to stop treating those who try to report on the crisis as enemies and to immediately release Sergei Lefter.”
Simon Ostrovsky, reporter with the U.S.-based news channel VICE News, who was released on Thursday along with Ukrainian freelance photographer Yegeny Gapich, said today that he was held by Ponomaryov and his aides, blindfolded, and beaten. Ostrovsky said Lefter was also in their custody. Gapich’s wife told Ukrainian journalists today that her husband could not talk to the press because he was in shock after his treatment in captivity, where he was “heavily beaten up for being a journalist.”