A year ago today, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported on the first mass assaults on press freedom in Ukraine, after police were ordered to disperse protesters in the capital, Kiev, and other cities. At least 51 journalists--including local and international reporters--were attacked by police and protesters while covering the early days of the standoff that led to the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych three months later.
On Sunday, which marked the first United Nations-backed International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, CPJ joined a coalition of international press freedom and human rights groups in urging Russian investigators to serve justice for our murdered colleagues.
Russian actor Mikhail Porechenkov has joined basketball star Dennis Rodman, who declared North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un his best friend, and Jennifer Lopez who sang "Happy Birthday Mr. President" to the authoritarian leader of Turkmenistan, on the list of celebrities who have made human rights faux pas.
A coalition of international press freedom groups, including the Committee to Protect Journalists, today called on Azerbaijani authorities to lift the travel ban and end the politicized prosecution of Khadija Ismayilova, an award-winning investigative reporter. In the past week authorities in Baku detained Ismayilova upon her arrival from Strasbourg where she had traveled to brief European politicians on Azerbaijan's human rights record; put her on trial over accusations of libel against a resident; and barred her from attending a pro-democracy forum in the Czech Republic, alleging that she was a witness in an unspecified criminal inquiry.
"There are no [independent] Ukrainian journalists left in Donetsk," said Aleksei Matsuka, chief editor of the regional news website Novosti Donbassa (News of Donbass). "They have fled the region since pro-Russia separatists started targeting and kidnapping reporters," Matsuka told CPJ during our brief meeting in Kiev.
On Wednesday, we reported that in Ukraine this week, at least two journalists had gone missing, while pro-Russia separatists abducted a fixer and briefly detained a reporter. Also, the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic said it was banning journalists from the conflict area. We noted that press freedom violations "are happening at dizzying speed in eastern Ukraine."
Today, the U.N. Human Rights Committee begins its two-day review of Kyrgyzstan's compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. By ratifying the treaty in October 1994, Kyrgyz authorities pledged to enforce internationally recognized provisions regarding the protection of human rights, and freedom of expression, in their country.
But CPJ research shows that Kyrgyzstan has consistently violated ICCPR provisions. Attacks against reporters; impunity in journalist murders, including of journalist Alisher Saipov; blocking of the news website Ferghana News; the politicized prosecution of ethnic Uzbek media owners, including Dzhavlon Mirzakhodzhayev of Mezon TV and Khalil Khudaiberdiyev of Osh TV; and the ongoing imprisonment of investigative reporter Azimjon Askarov have marred the climate of press freedom in Kyrgyzstan.
Last week, I was preparing to write a column about the anniversary of Paul Klebnikov's murder. The American editor of Forbes-Russia was murdered contract-style nine years ago in Moscow at the age of 41. He had investigated connections between Russian business and organized crime, as well as ethnic and political tensions in Chechnya. Despite numerous official promises to solve the July 9, 2004, killing, Klebnikov's murderers--as well whoever ordered him killed-- are still nowhere near the dock.
Do you believe the free flow of information must be protected? Sign the #RightToReport petition and demand that President Obama immediately:
1. Issue a presidential policy directive prohibiting the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organizations.
2. Limit aggressive prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers.
3. Prevent the harassment of journalists at the U.S. border.
Or click here to see the full petition, and join leading journalists like Christiane Amanpour, The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the AP Kathleen Carroll, and Arianna Huffington in signing on.