Ukrainian journalists Yegor Serdiuk (left) and Anastasiya Bereziy of Magnolia TV were reporting in Kyiv when a man pulled a gun on them and police refused to intervene. Here, they are pictured on a different assignment. (Artyom Stupak)

Ukrainian journalists threatened with gun, police in Kyiv refuse to intervene

New York, September 23, 2020 – Kyiv police should thoroughly investigate a gun threat against cameraman Yegor Serdiuk and reporter Anastasiya Bereziy and determine why police officers at the scene failed to protect the reporters, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. 

In the early hours of September 21, a man pointed a gun at Serdiuk while the two journalists were reporting for the multimedia platform Magnolia TV about a car accident allegedly involving the man, according to a Magnolia TV report and the platform’s chief editor Oleksiy Sidorenko, who spoke with CPJ via phone. Road police at the scene refused to intervene to help the reporters, according to Sidorenko.

“Ukrainian authorities must investigate the police officers’ failure to intervene when journalists Yegor Serdiuk and Anastasiya Bereziy were threatened while reporting the news,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Journalists are doing an important job, and police must fulfill their obligation to protect them and all members of the public.”  

According to Serdiuk, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app, the two reporters were filming the aftermath of an accident in which the man, who appeared to be drunk, allegedly drove into an electrical pole at high speed. As the journalists finished reporting, the man exited his car and pointed a gun at Serdiuk, the cameraman said. “I was in a complete shock and froze when I saw his gun pointed at me,” said Serdiuk. 

Bereziy ran to a patrol car that was parked approximately 10 meters (roughly 10 yards) away to ask for help, according to Sidorenko. The officer in the car refused to assist or even exit his car, saying that the gun was “just a pneumatic one,” meaning a gun that uses air, rather than a chemical reaction, to propel projectiles, Sidorenko said. Bereziy approached another officer nearby, but he also refused to help, telling the journalists that they should call the Ukraine emergency police number, according to Sidorenko. 

After the incident, Bereziy and Serdiuk filed a complaint about the threat and the officers’ failure to provide protection with the main office of the national police of Kyiv, according to Sidorenko. Bereziy also wrote about the incident on her personal Facebook page. After she posted on Facebook, Sidorenko said, the deputy head of the Ukraine patrol police department sent Bereziy a private message via messaging app, which CPJ reviewed, saying that he would investigate the incident.  

CPJ emailed Ukraine’s national police office in Kyiv for comment but did not receive a response.