People pray at the Kyiv-Pechersk monastery in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 29, 2023. Journalists were recently harassed and obstructed while reporting from the monastery. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich)

Journalists attacked, harassed while reporting from Ukraine monastery

Paris, April 4, 2023—Ukrainian authorities should swiftly investigate the recent harassment and assaults of journalists reporting from a monastery complex in Kyiv and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.

On March 29, worshippers at the state-owned Kyiv-Pechersk monastery in the capital city of Kyiv threatened and obstructed a group of journalists who were at the scene to cover the government’s termination of the lease of the monastery to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, according to media reports and a journalist who spoke to CPJ.

The following day, people at the facility, including its abbot, further harassed and obstructed journalists, according to those sources and reports by the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, a local trade group known as the NUJU.

“Ukrainian authorities must make it clear that those who harass and attack members of the press will be held to account,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Authorities must thoroughly investigate the recent obstruction of journalists reporting from the Kyiv-Pechersk monastery and ensure that reporters can cover newsworthy events without fear they will be assaulted.”

On March 29, worshippers surrounded Andrii Solomka, a reporter with the privately owned broadcaster Pryamiy, and Pryamiy camera operator Anton Puzan shortly after they arrived, Solomka told CPJ via messaging app.

Several people shoved the journalists and “prevented us from doing our work,” Solomka said, adding that one person told them “All journalists who came here should be beaten and expelled from this place.”

 “We were shocked by this, because we didn’t expect such aggression,” Solomka told CPJ. He and Puzan left the scene and filed a report to police on March 31, he said.

The following day, an unidentified priest grabbed the camera of Viktor Mozgovyi, a camera operator with public broadcaster Suspilne, and tore out its microphone, according to reports by the outlet, videos published by NUJU, and Suspilne editor-in-chief Khrystyna Havryliuk, who communicated with CPJ via email.

The priest also hit Suspilne reporter Daria Nematian Zolbin on the shoulder as she attempted to question Metropolitan Pavlo, the monastery’s abbot, according to those sources.

Police have named that priest as a suspect in an investigation into the obstruction of journalistic activities, according to Suspilne and a police statement.

“We are cooperating with the police, as it is clear that this behavior of the priest is unacceptable,” Havryliuk told CPJ.

Pavlo also shoved away the microphone of Valeriya Pashko, a reporter with privately owned broadcaster Espreso TV, when she attempted to ask him a question, according to the outlet, a video Espreso published on Telegram, and Institute of Mass Information, a local press freedom group.

Pavlo told Pashko to “get out of here” and said he “didn’t invite” her to the monastery. Pashko said she was also shoved by unidentified people she believed to be either worshippers or Pavlo’s bodyguards. “I got scared and left because I was worried about the outlet’s property,” she told NUJU.

“I’m going to take this stick and beat all your cameras,” Pavlo also reportedly told unidentified journalists.

Also on March 30, people in religious garb threatened to beat Yan Dobronosov, a photojournalist with news website Telegraf, Dobronosov told CPJ via messaging app.

Dobronosov said that when he attempted to question a person who appeared to be the leader of the group, its members threatened him and that man pulled on his phone charging wire, disconnecting it from a power bank.

Ukrainian police said in a statement that they were investigating the obstruction of journalists on March 30.

On April 1, a court in Kyiv ordered Pavlo to be placed under house arrest for 60 days on charges of inciting inter-religious enmity and justifying Russian aggression, according to media reports.

CPJ emailed the Kyiv police but did not immediately receive any response.

[Editor’s note: This article has been changed in its 13th paragraph to correctly identify the journalist who said she was shoved.]