Attacks on journalists covering Crimea violence

Greek Journalist Onisenko injured in Crimea 10.03.14

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SYDNEY: The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) have reiterated their appeal for all sides involved in the political unrest in Ukraine to respect the rights and freedom of journalists.

The IFJ/EFJ call follows reports that journalists are facing increasing harassment and intimidation in Crimea as political unrest continues, with news emerging that unidentified men are attacking journalists, brandishing guns and snatching cameras.

In response to the escalation in violence, the IFJ/EFJ are holding a meeting in Brussels on 17 March that will bring together representatives from the journalists union in Russia (RUJ) and Ukraine (NUJU and IMTUU) to discuss further measures to support journalists to uphold professional ethical standards and safety.

According to reports, on 5 March a journalist from ‘News of the Week – Crimea’ was attacked as he filmed a peaceful protest by a group of women in Crimea’s capital, Simferopol, and on 6 March a journalist from Kerch was threatened when she and a colleague visited the border ferry crossing.

In another chilling incident, a security camera in Simferopol captured the image of a Bulgarian freelance journalist and his assistant being attacked as they filmed masked men removing equipment from a television company. A gun was held to one of the men’s heads and their equipment was taken.

In the latest incident, on Friday evening, 7 March, armed gunmen in civilian clothes are reported to have attacked journalists outside a military facility in Sevastopol. According to IFJ/EFJ’s Greek affiliate, the Journalists’ Union of Athens Daily Newspapers (JUADN), the men blocked the journalists at the entrance to the facility then attacked them, beating them, and ripping their gear and identification papers.

One of those attacked was Greek journalist Kostas Onisenko, from the Kathimerini newspaper, who was hit in the head, suffering bad bruises to his face and a fractured nose.

“We call on all factions involved in the ongoing unrest in the Crimea region to ensure that media freedom is upheld and journalists are allowed to report the truth without fear of intimidation or violence,” said IFJ President Jim Boumelha.

The IFJ and the EFJ have also reminded journalists covering events in Crimea and across Ukraine to take every measure to ensure their safety, advising them to follow the Federation’s Media Safety Guidelines.

“We urge journalists covering events to remain mindful of their safety at all times and to ensure they take every step necessary to protect themselves during this very troubling period,” said EFJ President Mogens Blicher Bjerregård.

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