#FollowFriday: Striving to report the truth in Crimea

Monday, March 24, 2014

By: Alexandra Theodorakidis

The crisis in Crimea has proven to be a difficult reporting situation for journalists with threats, attacks and censorship coming from both the Russian and Ukrainian authorities. On March 16, the Crimean referendum saw 96.8 percent of voters in favour of Crimea becoming part of Russia, and has been condemned as illegal by many Western countries, including the European Union, the U.S. and Canada. Crimean Tatars, consisting of approximately 12 percent of the population, boycotted the referendum, as did many pro-Ukraine Crimeans.

With events in the peninsula happening quickly, it has been challenging to get accurate information from the region. The Crimean government made it difficult for journalists to gain the proper accreditation to cover the referendum, while the Ukrainian National Council for TV and Radio Broadcasting decided to stop transmitting several Russian channels, as the National Security and Defence Council claimed it was broadcasting messages that posed a threat to Ukraine’s national security. Much of the information being broadcast was propaganda, aimed at creating tension between pro-Russian Ukrainians and the rest of the country.
For this week’s #FollowFriday, here are a few different journalists and organizations reporting directly from Crimea in the face of threats and attacks, and others that are working to correct misinformation.

Dimiter Kenarov
Dimiter Kenarov is a freelance journalist, currently reporting for the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. On March 6, Kenarov and his coworker, Boryana Katsarova, were assaulted outside of a TV studio in Crimea by masked gunmen. Kenarov and Katsarova were robbed of their camera equipment and cell phones, and Kenarov had a gun held to his head. Both journalists were unharmed in the incident, and have continued reporting and photographing the events unfolding in Crimea.
Follow Kenarov on Twitter: @dkenarov

Nick Schifrin
Nick Schifrin is a journalist working for Al Jazeera America. In early March, Schifrin was covering negotiations between Russians and Ukrainians at an anti-aircraft base in Yevpatoria, Crimea. Afterward, a crowd of more than 150 people stopped Schifrin and a fellow reporter as they were trying to drive away, demanding the footage that they recorded. The crowd took pictures of their identification badges, slashed a tire on Schifrin’s car and then escorted them to a gas station to have the tire fixed before escorting Schifrin and his coworker out of town. On March 16, Schifrin tweeted that he had been assaulted again while covering the referendum in Simferopol.
Follow Schifrin on Twitter: @nickschifrin

Institute of Mass Information (IMI)
The Institute of Mass Information, an IFEX member based in Ukraine, is an NGO dedicated to free expression. They keep track of assaults on journalists and issues of censorship within the country. So far in 2014, IMI has registered 152 assaults on journalists, 10 instances of censorship and one journalist killed. IMI has some of the most extensive, unbiased coverage of the situation in Crimea as it relates to press freedom. IMI shows the harsh reality of the risks journalists are facing in Crimea in order to do their jobs.
Follow IMI on Twitter: @imi_media

Stopfake.org
In an effort to correct misinformation being broadcast by Russian media, students and alumni from the Mohyla School of Journalism launched a fact-checking website called stopfake.org on March 2, 2014. The website monitors media coverage of the current crisis and responds to propaganda or anti-Ukrainian bias. Highlights of their coverage include collecting large amounts of video and photographic evidence that Russian troops are occupying parts of Crimea, showing that Russian TV used footage of disturbances in Kiev and claimed it was violent clashes on the streets of Simferopol and an explanation of why the Russian occupation of Crimea is a violation of international law.
Follow Stop Fake on Twitter: @StopFakingNews

Telekritika
Ukraine media news website telekritika.ua has produced a great deal of content covering the censorship of journalists who are reporting on the crisis in Crimea. Despite a clear bias against Russian media and the Russian occupation, they have been strong advocates of the rights of journalists who are covering the crisis. The website features content on the disappearance of journalists, and they were extremely vocal about journalists who were denied full access to coverage of the referendum.
Follow Telekritika on Twitter: @ua_telekritika

Euromaidan
Euromaidan is the name given to the ongoing protests and civil unrest across Ukraine. Although their presence is mainly in Kiev, Euromaidan has been vocal in pointing out many of the inaccuracies of the Crimean referendum. For instance, Sevastopol, Crimea has 385,462 residents, including children; yet the pro- Russian authorities in Crimea are claiming 474,137 votes were cast, indicating 123 percent of the population turned out to vote. Euromaidan shares information on everything from potential terrorist attacks to what happens to the equipment that is confiscated from journalists in Crimea.
Follow Euromaidan on Twitter: @EuromaidanPR

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Alexandra Theodorakidis is CJFE’s Communications and Publications Assistant and a graduate of the Ryerson School of Journalism.