VICE journalist held by pro-Russians in eastern Ukraine

New York, April 22, 2014–The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned about the safety of Simon Ostrovsky, a reporter with the U.S.-based global news channel VICE News, who is being held in the eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk. Ostrovsky is in the custody of pro-Russian separatists led by self-proclaimed “people’s mayor” Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, according to news reports.

“We call on those holding Simon Ostrovsky to immediately release him and stop detaining, harassing, and obstructing journalists reporting on the ongoing crisis in eastern Ukraine,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “If Vyacheslav Ponomaryov and his associates aspire to gain legitimacy, detaining journalists is counterproductive.”

VICE News said in a statement that it is working “to secure the safety and security of our friend and colleague.”

Sloviansk has become an increasingly dangerous place for journalists in recent days. Sergei Lefter, reporter for the Warsaw-based Open Dialogue Foundation, was reported missing in the city as of April 15. He is still unaccounted for. In a separate case in Sloviansk, on Monday, pro-Russian separatists captured Italian journalists Paul Gogo and Kossimo Attanasio and Belarusian reporter Dmitry Galko; the journalists were released later that day but their reporting equipment, money, and personal documents were confiscated, according to local press reports.