Freedom of press at gunpoint: Charity Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech expresses concern over pressure on mass media in Ukraine, Europe, world

According to the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine (NUJU), during the first months of this year, the attacks on the journalists occurred by a third more often than in 2020.

“Mostly, the incidents are tied with the aggressive obstruction of editorial tasks of mass media employees and freelance journalists. The circumstances of particular attacks show that the there is a deliberate intention of revenge for publication of “inconvenient” materials,” the Chairman of the NUJU Serhiy Tomilenko said.

For example, a journalist and an expert on cyber security Mykyta Knysh was beaten in Kharkiv at night on May 1. He was shooting a video about violation of quarantine rules – a vivid nightlife near one of the metro stations. After the shooting of the story, Knysh called the police; however, they did not take any preventive measures and stated the absence of the grounds for dealing with people at the parking. When the patrol police left the site, the journalist was attacked and severely beaten. His phone, backpack with laptop, and personal belongings were taken away. Later, his phone was thrown away. Therefore, Knysh called the police for investigative actions and went to verify battery-induced injuries.

The Chairperson of the Supervisory Board of the Charity Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech Hanna Herman is concerned over the sad incidents. She underlines: restriction of the freedom of the press in Ukraine is the first sign of totalitarianism. The country is at the end of the world rating of the freedom of press on the eve of the 30th anniversary of independence.

“Closure of TV channels, prosecution of journalists, attacks on mass media workers, and vulnerability of the press representatives are the aspects characterizing the current level of freedom of the press. President Volodymyr Zelensky cynically forbids independent journalists to attend his press conference. And even if they make it through, they are not allowed to ask questions. Even more, the President does not hide his irritation towards the unfavorable journalists. All of this is the sign for all the officials and representatives of authorities that freedom of speech in Ukraine is not a value anymore and it stopped being one of the main elements of democratic development. It is the first and main trait of totalitarianism. It is a very bad signal for investors,” Hanna Herman stated.

Attacks and violence against mass media employees are not so rare in the world. Particularly, on May 1, correspondent of Deutsche Welle in Kenya Mariel Müller suffered from the police during the covering of the peaceful protest. The protest was against the police violence and drastic actions of Kenya authorities for the fight against Covid-19. Police started to shoot at protesters with capsules with tear gas to disperse the activists. Two of the capsules hit the journalist in the leg.

In addition, an audacious murder of a media worker took place in Athens on April 10. According to the Greek police, journalist Giorgos Karaivaz, who covered criminal topics, was shot near his house. His body was found with a few gunshot wounds. The investigation continues.