Journalists demand action after Ukraine murder and attacks

Headline-grabbing violence that toppled the president of the Ukraine is said to have claimed the lives of more than 80 people - most of them protesters. Police and security staff have also been killed. What has not made world news is the murder of a journalist and attacks on 167 other media workers since November last year, according to figures released by the International Federation of Journalists.

Viacheslav Veremyi, pictured left, died after being pulled out of  car and beaten and shot by thugs in Velyka Zhytomirska Street, central Kiev, in the early hours of last Wednesday. 

He worked for the local Vremya (Time) pro-government newspaper and was the paper's leading reporter who had covered the mass demonstrations in Kiev's Independence Square, the Maidan, since the start of the latest uprising three months ago. He died of a gunshot to the chest while doctors were trying to save him.

Vesti, a Russian-language daily, said in a statement. “Vyacheslav received a bullet wound to the chest. He succumbed to his injuries due to blood loss.”

The reporter and his colleague, IT specialist Aleksey Lymarenko were in a taxi on their way home. As the taxi driver stopped at traffic lights, a group of “unknown men with bats and weapons, in hard hats, camouflage and black masks” ambushed the car.

They pulled the reporter, his colleague and the driver from the car and beat them up, the paper said. The latter two were badly hurt, with Aleksey Lymarenko’s face being seriously injured.

The attack happened about 800 meters away from Independence Square, where clashes between police and protesters were raging on.

A special meeting of the International Partnership Mission on Safety and Protection of Journalists and Press Freedom in Ukraine, meeting in Kiev February 19-20 2014, heard a wide variety of witness accounts of violence against journalists. It found:

- an appalling number of cases of violence and harassment against journalists, including the murder of Vesti journalist Vyacheslav Veremyi;
- clear evidence that journalists, other media workers, and media organisations are being directly targeted and attacked because of their work;
- a culture of impunity caused by failure to investigate and prosecute crimes against journalists, media workers, and media organisations;
- that authorities have engaged in blocking, censoring and obstructing news organisations and news content, particularly during the current demonstrations and protests;
- that economic pressure and other indirect methods of inhibiting and discouraging critical reporting continue to be employed by Ukraine authorities.

The partnership mission, comprising international and local media and press freedom organisations, including the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), respectfully reminds the Ukraine government that it is the duty of the state to protect all citizens, including journalists, and to ensure that journalists and media organizations can carry out their duties without fear of violence or harassment.

The mission recognises and praises the courageous work of our colleagues in Ukraine in carrying out their essential duties in dangerous and difficult circumstances.

It also:
- demands that Ukraine authorities fulfil their obligations and ensure that all attacks on journalists, media workers and media organisations immediately cease;
- calls on the Ukraine government to allow an immediate, independent, and transparent investigation to bring those responsible for attacks to justice;
- urges the Council of Europe to engage with Ukraine authorities to ensure this investigation, and to conduct their own investigation;
- calls on authorities to enact existing legislation, including Article 171 of the Criminal Code that forbids any obstruction of journalistic activity;

- strongly calls for joint efforts to seek international justice, including through potential submission to the European Court of Human Rights;

- calls on Ukraine authorities to recognise the fundamental right of the public to receive accurate and diverse information and to refrain from blocking, censoring or otherwise obstructing independent media, and encourage development of an independent and viable media market.

* The International Partnership Mission on the safety and protection of journalists and press freedom in Ukraine includes representatives of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine (NUJU), the Independent Media Trade Union of Ukraine (IMTU), the Ukrainian Association of Press Publishers, the Independent Regional Press Publishers of Ukraine, the International Federations of Journalists (IFJ), the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), International Media Support (IMS), Open Society Foundations, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), Article19, and Reporters Without Borders.