In Ukraine, journalists injured, detained, expelled

New York, July 28, 2014–In recent days in Ukraine, an international journalist was wounded in a car crash caused by separatists’ gunfire, a local journalist was detained by separatists, a Russian reporter for Bloomberg News was briefly detained by a Ukrainian army unit, and a foreign journalist was expelled by Ukrainian authorities, according to press freedom groups and local and international media.

On Sunday, Bianka Zalewska, a Polish journalist for the Kiev-based independent online broadcaster Espresso TV, was injured in the eastern Lugansk region after the van in which she was traveling crashed as a result of separatists’ gunfire, Polish and Ukrainian media reported. Nikolai Knyazhitskiy, owner of Espresso TV, told CPJ that Zalewska’s spine and collarbone were broken and that she was being treated at a hospital in Kharkiv.

Zalewska’s footage was going to be aired today, Knyazhitskiy told CPJ. Knyazhitskiy said he did not know if the minivan was marked as “Press” or if there were any other journalists with Zalewska.

Separately, Yuri Lelyavsky, special correspondent for the Lviv-based ZIK media company, was detained on Wednesday by separatists at an improvised checkpoint in Lugansk, the Kiev-based press freedom group Institute of Mass Information reported. Lelyavsky’s friend and family members told IMI that he sent a text message on Wednesday night, telling them of his detention. “Being taken to Perevalsk [controlled by the separatists],” Lelyavsky said in the message, IMI reported. They have not heard from him since, IMI said.

Lelyavsky had accompanied a group of religious activists whose work he was documenting, IMI said. A few hours before he was detained, the journalist filed his report, IMI said. This is the second time Lelyavsky has been detained by separatists in eastern Ukraine. In April, he was held for 15 days.

On a fact-finding mission to Ukraine this month, CPJ found that independent journalists have fled the eastern regions of the country after receiving threats and retaliation for reporting on the conflict.

“The continued attacks on the media in Ukraine cause harm well beyond the injuries and intimidation experienced by the journalists themselves,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “People who are already suffering amid tension and conflict are deprived of the basic right to information. We call on all sides to stop attacking and obstructing the press and let the news flow.”

Stepan Kravchenko, reporter for Bloomberg News Moscow, said in a report published Sunday that he was briefly detained on Friday in the eastern Donetsk region by soldiers with the Ukrainian battalion Dnepr. Kravchenko said the soldiers stopped his car at a checkpoint and questioned him about videos of separatists he had on his iPad. He said he was taken to their camp for a few hours before being released.

On Friday, Ukrainian and Russian media said Ukrainian authorities expelled Graham Phillips, a British contributor to the Kremlin-owned broadcaster Russia Today, after holding him for three days. Phillips, who has been barred from entering Ukraine for three years, was reported missing on Tuesday after he traveled to Donetsk airport to cover clashes between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia separatists. Ukrainian authorities publicly denied holding him until he was expelled.

On Saturday, Anton Skiba, a fixer for CNN who was detained by separatists in Donetsk last week, was released, local press reports said.

The climate for press freedom in the volatile eastern Ukraine has deteriorated further following the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines plane in Donetsk region, CPJ research shows.