Continued suppression of free expression in Ukraine

Tuesday, February 11, 2014
His Excellency Vadym Prystaiko Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to Canada Embassy of Ukraine in Canada 310 Somerset Street West Ottawa, Ontario K2P 0J9 Dear Ambassador, I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world. CJFE strongly condemns continuing attempts by the Ukrainian government to suppress anti-government protests in the capital of Kiev through conditional amnesty measures. The newly proposed amnesty law, which took effect February 2, makes the release of detained protesters conditional upon the cessation of remaining demonstrations. Protesters have been given a deadline of February 17, 2014 to vacate occupied government buildings for compliance. If granted, this amnesty would apply to 259 people, but if the government’s demands are not met, these individuals will all face trial. While it is encouraging that the Ukrainian government repealed a hastily passed and deeply controversial anti-protest law on January 30, 2014, the conditional amnesty is extremely problematic. It appears to be an attempt to co-opt demonstrators, offering freedom for their fellow activists in exchange for refraining from exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly. Additionally, CJFE is gravely concerned by the alarming number of journalists who have been assaulted while reporting on anti-government protests that began last November in Kiev. According to the Institute of Mass Information, 136 journalists have been injured by police or riot police (Berkut) while covering conflicts between protesters and local authorities. CJFE calls on the Ukrainian government to make provisions for an unconditional amnesty for imprisoned protesters, while ensuring that the perpetrators of violence against journalists are brought to justice. We thank you for your attention and I look forward to your reply. Yours sincerely, Arnold Amber, CJFE President Cc: Mr. Troy Lulashnyk, Ambassador of Canada to Ukraine The Honourable John Baird, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs

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