As delivered by the Delegation of Ukraine to the 1117th meeting of the Permanent Council, 03 November 2016
At the outset, we wish to reaffirm Ukraine’s resolve to safeguard and promote media freedom and protection of journalists in the country in line with the OSCE commitments and international standards.
We strongly condemn all attacks against journalists and maintain a firm view that journalists’ safety must be guaranteed at all times. Ukraine undertook important legislative measures to strengthen the safety of journalists and increase responsibility for obstruction of their work. The Ukrainian authorities give utmost attention to the comprehensive and impartial investigation of the cases of violence and intimidation of members of the media.
Ukraine closely co-operates with the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media which provides valuable expertise and assistance in enhancing the implementation of relevant commitments, and will continue to do so in the efforts to enhance media freedom and protection of journalists.
The second SHDM on media freedom and safety of journalists in situations of armed conflicts, held in Vienna on 27-28 October 2016, served as yet another proof that in the context of many challenges to the freedom of the media and safety of journalists in the OSCE region, those stemming from the on-going Russian aggression against Ukraine continue to dominate the OSCE agenda and present the primary threat to media freedom.
Abundant first-hand testimonies by members of the media exercising their activities on the ground identified that violence against independent journalists in the illegally occupied Crimea and Donbas and dissemination of the Russian state propaganda by the Russian media on the territory of Ukraine are the main elements of this dire landscape, severely undermining the OSCE principles and commitments.
We call on Russia as de facto occupying authority in Crimea to immediately release the Ukrainian journalist Mykola Semena, who remains detained in the illegally annexed peninsula under the trumped-up charges of “separatism”.
We encourage the Representative on Media Freedom to continue to take all possible steps with a view to monitoring the situation and protecting the rights of Ukrainian and foreign journalists in the Russia-occupied territories of Ukraine.
We also reiterate our protest against the ungrounded detention and criminal prosecution in Russia of the Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko on fabricated charges of “espionage”. Roman Sushchenko is a resolute and independent defender of the freedom of speech, known for his exposure of Russia’s illegal actions against Ukraine. We call on the participating States and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media to use all available instruments to facilitate his immediate release.
We urge the Russian Federation to immediately release Roman Sushchenko and other citizens of Ukraine who have become hostages of Russia’s aggressive policies and to ensure their safe return to Ukraine.
With over three hundred of journalists killed and disappeared in Russia since 1993, where in most cases the perpetrators have not been brought to justice, the Russian Federation remains one of the most dangerous places for journalists in the OSCE region with the highest number of journalists brutally attacked and killed in the past 15 years. Scores of journalists were killed in Russia during the two Chechen wars and their deaths remain uninvestigated many years after.
Russia is the only OSCE participating State among 14 countries world-wide featuring in the 2015 Global Impunity Index, prepared by an independent and authoritative NGO “The Committee to Protect Journalists”. This index is based on the cases of the last ten years. The Committee points out that “Russia has a poor record of impunity in the cases of murdered journalists, which increases intimidation and acts of violence against the press. Journalists face harassment and threats of legal action.”
The international NGO “Reporters without Borders” concluded, publishing its 2016 World Press Freedom Index, that “harassment of independent media outlets continues to increase in Russia”, “while the leading TV channels continue to inundate viewers with propaganda, the climate has become very oppressive for those who question the new patriotic and neo-conservative discourse”, “the enduring features of the situation in Russia include the impunity enjoyed by those responsible for violence, including sometimes deadly violence, against journalists”.
These assessments warrant a focused attention to serious failures by the Russian Federation to meet its international commitments and obligations on media freedom as there is a link between domestic restrictions and Russia’s external aggression having a direct impact on security of the OSCE participating States.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.