Paris, July 25, 2022 — Ukrainian and Russian authorities should ensure that artillery attacks do not damage civilian infrastructure, including media offices, and let the press report freely and safely on the war in Ukraine, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.
On July 15, Russian forces shelled the editorial office of Zorya, a newspaper in the eastern village of Zolochiv, in the Kharkiv region, according to a report by the Ukrainian National Union of Journalists (NUJU), a local trade group, and Zorya chief editor Vasily Miroshnik, who spoke to CPJ by phone.
Russian forces also shelled homes in the area on July 15, and damaged the village’s power grid, according to news reports. No one was injured in the shelling of Zorya’s office, according to Miroshnik and the NUJU.
“We are deeply concerned by the shelling the office of Ukrainian newspaper Zorya during the Russian artillery attack on the village of Zolochiv,” said Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director, in Madrid. “Media covering the war must be assured that they can continue to do so without fear of attack, and Russian and Ukrainian authorities have a responsibility to ensure their protection.”
Zorya’s office was previously hit by shelling in early April, the NUJU reported at the time.
Miroshnik was quoted in that NUJU report as saying that Zorya staffers “are convinced that they [Russian forces] deliberately fire at the editorial office. Miroshnik told CPJ that the area had been repeatedly shelled while other buildings in the town, including the local police department and administrative office buildings, had not.
He added that “neighbors are afraid to live next to [the office]” because it had been repeatedly attacked.
“We just finished repairs after the first shelling. The windows were blown out again, and now we decided to just cover them with plywood. The roof was also demolished, and the armored door was blown out,” Miroshnik told the NUJU.
Zorya stopped printing when the war started and now publishes news in a Facebook group with about 11,600 members, Miroshnik told CPJ. The outlet also airs live Facebook broadcasts of military actions in the area and has published criticism of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to Miroshnik and CPJ’s review of the outlet’s content.
Separately, Miroshnik told CPJ that pro-Russian locals had repeatedly sent complaints to Facebook to block Zorya’s Facebook group, which he saw as retaliation for the outlet’s reporting.
“We make it difficult for the Russians to tell lies about what is happening on the Ukrainian territory,” Miroshnik told CPJ. “We are proving with facts that the Russian artillery and aviation are shelling Zolochiv, killing civilians, and it bothers the [pro-Russian] collaborators. I conduct live broadcasts from the places that were shelled, report on where the shells come from, and on whom they are killing.”
In May 2022, the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti published a video where a man presented as a Ukrainian refugee accused Miroshnik and Zorya of spreading false information about the Russian army shelling the Kharkiv village of Udy in April.
“They are waging war on our newsroom at the level of centralized Russian state media, they are waging war on us at the level of Facebook… and they are trying to destroy our office in order to prevent us from working as a print newspaper,” Miroshnik told CPJ.
CPJ emailed the Russian and Ukrainian Ministries of Defense for comment but did not receive any replies.