Journalists in Ukraine face multiple threats amid Russia’s war

29 mart., 2024

Since Russia’s full-scale war in Ukraine began, dozens of journalists have disappeared, some have been kidnapped or threatened, and some have been killed by occupying forces, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says.

“Most Ukrainian journalists have become war reporters, working in very dangerous security situations,” said Pauline Maufrais from Reporters Without Borders. “The Russian invasion has shaken up the Ukrainian media landscape.”

Since Russia fully invaded Ukraine, at least 84 media workers have been killed in the war, according to data from the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine and the International Federation of Journalists. Among them, 16 media workers were on professional assignments; nine were civilian victims, and 59 of them had been mobilized in Ukraine’s armed forces.

Reporters Without Borders has also documented eleven journalists killed. Some journalists are also still missing. The whereabouts of 27-year-old Ukrainian journalist Viktoriya Roshchyna, who hasn’t been seen or heard from since she left for a reporting trip to the Russian-occupied territory of Ukraine last August, remains unknown.

Her father, Volodymyr Roshchyn, told Context that he fears his daughter may be held captive in Russia and that an investigation was launched by Ukrainian security officials. “No matter where we turned, even to the UN – there were no answers,” he said. “It remains to wait for an answer and pray.”

The last call he received from her was on August 3, 2023. Then communication stopped. She hadn’t shared details of her itinerary but they knew she wanted to get to occupied territory. Fearing for her safety, he had begged her not to go.

“Journalism is her whole life,” he said.

The journalist’s disappearance is “extremely worrying,” Pauline Maufrais, who works for Reporters Without Borders, told Context. Because in Russia or territories it occupies, she said, independent journalists are “hunted down, imprisoned, tortured and sometimes killed.”

Maufrais said that RSF – which has lodged eight complaints to the International Criminal Court, the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office, and the French prosecutor’s office – have asked both Russian and Ukrainian authorities to investigate her disappearance.

Lina Kushch, the first secretary of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, said that journalists are being treated as civilians and are being illegally detained by Russia, contravening the Geneva Conventions.

“When Russia seizes Ukrainian territories, it begins to put pressure on journalists,” she said. “This is specifically to exclude the possibility of an alternative opinion, to clear the information field.”

She said Russia is taking advantage of the legal uncertainty and is detaining journalists on charges ranging from opposing its so-called “special military operation” to terrorism, extremism, and espionage.

Some journalists have been handed heavy sentences. 

Serhii Tsygipa, a 62-year-old freelance journalist from the Ukrainian city of Nova Kakhovka, was detained by Russian forces at a checkpoint and later convicted of espionage and sentenced to 13 years in a Crimean prison. 

It would be two months before his wife Olena Tsygipa heard from him after he was detained. “Only then was I able to breathe,” she said. “People I know … told me that they saw Serhiy in SIZO No. 1 in Simferopol,” referring to the prison facility where he is held.

“At his age, thirteen years is life imprisonment,” she said.

The verdict in his case, his wife said, states that he had information about the location of Russian military equipment and that he was passing it to Ukraine’s armed forces.

Tsygipa is hoping her husband can be freed in a prisoner swap and has even written letters to former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the hope he can use his political sway to help.

Kushch, the first secretary of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, said her union supports the calls of various human rights organizations who hope to develop official procedures to release journalists held captive.

“While there is no such mechanism we can only resort to actions of solidarity with prisoners and informing the international community,” she said.“Journalists are not combatants, and they cannot be prisoners of war.”

Despre autor: Taisiia Bakharieva

Avatar of Taisiia Bakharieva
Taisiia Bakharieva este o jurnalistă din Kiev, Ucraina, care acum locuiește în România. Este în media din 1994 și a lucrat pentru agenția de presă RATAU, ziarele Kray și Vseukrainskie Vedomosti și ca redactor-șef al departamentului de cultură al ziarului și al site-ului FAKTI. Taisiia a intervievat numeroase personalități din Ucraina și este autor și prezentator al secțiunii de televiziune TV-FAKTI. După ce Rusia i-a invadat țara, Taisiia s-a mutat în România și s-a alăturat echipei CONTEXT. Munca ei se concentrează acum pe investigații privind crimele de război ale Rusiei în Ucraina și realizează interviuri cu victimele și martorii terorii rusești. Este de multă vreme membră a Uniunii Jurnaliștilor din Ucraina.

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