Troubled by recent decree banning reporting on the conflict in Donetsk

Friday, July 25, 2014

His Excellency Vadym Prystaiko
Ambassador of Ukraine to Canada
310 Somerset Street West
Ottawa, ON, K2P 0J9

July 24, 2014

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 is deeply troubled by the decree recently issued by the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk (PRD), which bans reporting on the conflict in eastern Ukraine. This absolute ban is extremely problematic and restricts access to vital information about the political situation in the region.

The decree, which was issued on July 21, bans filming, photographing and reporting in combat zones. According to the PRD Defence Minister Igor Strelkov, the rationale behind the decree is the need to ensure the safety of media workers and to protect information security of the DPR’s armed forces. This goal does not justify the extreme measure of absolute censorship on publications about the conflict. Moreover, the vaguely worded decree is subject to abuse by the DPR for the purpose of increasing their control over the media and the flow of information.

The decree is part of a pernicious climate of media repression in Ukraine, which has reached critical levels in recent days. On July 22, CNN freelance journalist Anton Skiba was kidnapped in Donetsk by pro-Russian separatists. Also on July 22, British freelance journalist Graham Philips disappeared while covering fighting near the Donetsk airport. Ten foreign journalists were arrested near the Donetsk morgue on July 19 and 20, where they were reporting on the MH17 crash. These are merely a few examples from the long list of recently detained, threatened and missing journalists. The Institute of Mass Information (IMI) reports that so far this year six journalists have been killed in connection with their work in Ukraine, while 249 have been injured or attacked, and 55 have been detained. These numbers are rising every day.

CJFE calls on all armed forces party to the conflict to immediately release any detained journalists and to refrain from any further attempts at censorship and intimidation.

We thank you for your attention and I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Arnold Amber, CJFE President

Cc: The Honourable John Baird, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs
Mr. Troy Lulashnyk, Ambassador of Canada to Ukraine