Violence against journalists in Ukraine continues to escalate as protests against the current government spread from the streets of Kiev to cities around the country. The Institute of Mass Information (IMI), a media support NGO that has been tracking injuries, arrests, and equipment damage among journalists since the protests began in late November, reports that as of February 2, 2014, 136 journalists had suffered from these offenses while attempting to cover the events.
- The majority of them (80 out of 136) were injured in the past two weeks (since January 19)
- 54 were injured by police or members of the Berkut riot police force
- 27 were injured when stun grenades exploded near them
- 17 were injured by shots fired on Hrushevsky St., the epicenter of the protests in Kiev
- 19 were injured in other ways, many by flying debris or tear gas
- 31 journalists had their equipment (cameras, computers, etc.) damaged or destroyed
- 11 journalists were detained or arrested by police
Some journalists suffered from more than one type of injury or offense. IMI fact-checks all reported cases before posting them to ensure their veracity.
Many journalists had been wearing highly visible vests designating them as members of the press, but stopped after they were singled out for attack to prevent them from covering the protests.
“I observed that journalists from Spilno.tv were targeted on purpose on Hrushevsky St.,” says Halyna Nabaranchuk, a journalist from the online channel Spilno.tv. “We were not in the most dangerous place, but many of us got shot with riot guns. I got a rubber bullet in my leg. It is still dangerous to go home from Maidan because police visit our journalists at home or near their apartment buildings and threaten them and their families.”
Volodymyr Karaguyar, another Spilno.tv journalist, explained his situation: “I was arrested at the gas station while buying gasoline for a generator for Spilno.tv. The police thought I intended to bring gasoline to Hrushevsky St. to prepare Molotov cocktails. The police officers who detained me were the only witnesses at the court hearings. Currently, the criminal case is still valid and I am under house arrest. I did not do anything illegal – just found myself in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Perpetrators of violent acts against journalists have largely gone unpunished, even when evidence clearly implicates their involvement. Internews’ local Ukrainian partners IMI, the Regional Press Development Institute, and the Media Law Institute held a press conference on February 6 to present data on injured journalists and explain the procedure for taking cases of beatings and attacks to the European Court of Human Rights if they are not thoroughly investigated in Ukraine.
Internews’ work in Ukraine is supported by USAID.