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AEJ condemns the oppression of journalists and media freedom in Crimea

At a time when the attention of the whole world is focused on the crisis in Crimea, the AEJ calls on the actual authorities there and in all parts of Ukraine to uphold the rights of local and international journalists to carry out their work without violence, harassment or undue impediments. The work of independent media is absolutely essential to provide timely and accurate information on a fast-moving and complex situation. Instead, we have witnessed numerous physical attacks against journalists, blatant censorship, and the closure of Ukranian TV channels such as Briz, 1+1, 5 channel, 1st National and the local Chermomorskaya TV and their replacement with Pro-Russian broadcasters.

According to the OSCE, many journalists have been assaulted and intimidated, while covering the events, including representatives of Argumenti nedeli-Krym (Stanislav Yurchenko); Associated Press Television News; BBC; CNN; Inter channel (Olena Mekhanik, Andrii Tsaplienko and two operators); Russkaya Planeta (Pavel Nikulin); STB (Oleksii Simakov, Oleksandr Albinskyi, Vyacheslav Skvorchevskyi, Igor Levenok); and 5 channel (Anton Laktionov).

On 7 March, two Bulgarian freelance journalists - Dimitar Kenarov, member of AEJ-Bulgaria, and the photo reporter Boryana Katsarova, were violently attacked by paramilitary forces and had their professional equipment confiscated by force. Kenarov had a gun pointed at his head while being ordered to hand over his mobile phone. That unacceptable harassment against media workers occurred shortly after the two journalists had filmed masked gunmen stealing equipment from another TV channel just across the street. Both journalists, who are being supported by Pulitzer journalism grants, were uninjured and are continuing their newsgathering work in Crimea.

Dimiter Kenarov has said: “It is very worrying that attacks on foreign journalists are becoming more and more frequent. There seem to be absolutely no rules here.”

The AEJ condemns the extreme violation of media freedom in Crimea, which has taken form of serious intimidation against the journalists who are reporting on the crisis. We call on the authorities, regardless of their political affiliation, to put an end to the violence immediately and to provide the necessary conditions for the journalists to fulfil their professional duties safely and independently.