Journalists, media outlets remain in the crosshairs in eastern Ukraine

New York, June 27, 2014–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns continued pressure on the media in the eastern Ukraine region of Donetsk and calls on separatists to allow journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal.

“The reporting of independent news from Eastern Ukraine is critical for local residents as well as for regional and global policymakers,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “We call on all sides in the conflict in Donetsk to allow journalists to do their work safely and without obstruction, and for Ukrainian authorities to hold attackers on the press to account.”

Today, the press service of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic announced that all newspapers and media distributors in the region must seek registration with its newly created Ministry of Information in the next 10 days, the Ukrainian and regional press reported. The separatists also said that media content must not include “calls to power grab; forced change of DPR’s territorial integrity; propaganda of war, violence, national and religious hatred,” news reports said.

It is unclear what sanctions, if any, would be used against those who fail to meet the requirements or seek registration with DPR.

On Thursday in the city of Torez, armed separatists raided the newsroom of the regional independent newspaper Pro Gorod (About the City) and confiscated reporting equipment, including computers and a camera, and the personal belongings of the staff members, according to the Kiev-based local press freedom group Institute of Mass Information. Before leaving, the separatists broke furniture and a security camera and threatened journalists with even harsher consequences if they continued to report on developments in the region, Igor Abyzov, the newspaper’s editor, told IMI.

Also on Thursday in the regional capital, Donetsk, separatists forced the staff of the local television and radio broadcasting center to terminate the signal of the Kiev-based independent national TV channel ICTV and the municipal 12 Kanal (Channel 12) TV station, and replace them with Russian TV channels, the news agency Interfax-Ukraina reported citing a statement released by Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council. The report did not specify what actions the separatists took against the center.

In recent months, the climate for press freedom in Ukraine has deteriorated, with violent attacks against local and international reporters, confiscation of their reporting equipment, and obstruction of television transmissions, according to CPJ research and IMI reports.