Ukraine ‘does not support’ Free Press

On April 25, the Russian President Vladimir Putin said its intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB), had prevented a “terrorist group” from carrying out a plan to assassinate a prominent Russian television journalist.

“[W]We know the overseers by name [of the plot] Western intelligence agencies, primarily, of course, the United States CIA, which work with Ukrainian security agencies. Apparently they give such advice,” Putin told Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

The FSB issued a video allegedly showing the arrest and interrogation of three suspected Russian nationalists, who said on camera that they had met with Ukrainian intelligence services, which ordered the assassination of several Russian journalists, including Dmitry Kiselyov and Margarita Simonyan, respectively CEO and editor-in-chief of Rossiya Segodnya, the state-owned media conglomerate that includes RT, Sputnik and RIA Novosti.

Commenting on the supposed plot, Kiselyov said:

“No country in the world treats journalists more cruelly than Ukraine. The regime simply does not support freedom of expression, and reckless lies have become the only method of working with information in the public domain.

It’s wrong. When it comes to mistreating journalists, Ukraine is far from close to Russia, which consistently ranks near the bottom when it comes to press freedom.

It is true that Ukraine is not exactly a safe place for journalists. Especially since Russia launched an all-out war in February. Seven journalists died covering the fighting. In Russia, journalists have been arrested and threatened. the Journalists Protection Committee documented the abuse in detail.

OK, but what about before the invasion?

liberty housethe nonpartisan watchdog group in Washington, DC, rated Russia “not free” in its 2021 annual report and awarded it “zero” points when answering the question: “Is there free independent media?”

“The government controls, directly or through state-owned enterprises and friendly business tycoons, all national television networks and many radio stations and newspapers, as well as most of the media advertising market. A handful of independent outlets still operate, most online and some headquartered overseas. The few people still based in the country struggle to maintain their independence from state interests.

In comparison, Ukraine is rated as “partly free” in that same report, and Freedom House awarded Kyiv two points out of four for free and independent media. He criticized Ukraine not for government censorship, as in the case of Russia, but for the influence of powerful media moguls:

“The media landscape is characterized by considerable pluralism, open criticism of the government and investigations of powerful figures. However, business tycoons own and influence many outlets, using them as tools to further their agendas. President Zelenskyy has already received significant support from the media controlled by Kolomoisky. Other parties also receive favorable coverage from the “friendly” media.

Editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, Nobel laureate Dmitry Muratov was attacked on a train in Moscow. (Dmitry Muratov/Novaya Gazeta)

Observatory of press freedom in Paris Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said of Russia in its 2021 World Press Freedom Index:

“With draconian laws, blocking of websites, internet shutdowns and the limitation or suppression of major news outlets, the pressure on independent media has grown steadily…

“As the major television networks continue to inundate viewers with propaganda, the climate has become very oppressive for those who challenge the new patriotic and neoconservative discourse, or simply try to maintain quality journalism. Vague and selective laws are used to imprison journalists and bloggers.

“The Kremlin seems determined to control the internet, a goal called ‘sovereign internet’. Journalists are now referred to as “foreign agents”, a defamatory label already applied to some media outlets and major media advocacy NGOs.

“Killings and physical attacks against journalists continue to go unpunished…”

Reporters Without Borders pre-invasion report Ukraine was almost similar to that of the Freedom House. He noted that Ukraine’s media landscape was diverse but the oligarchs still maintained a stranglehold on the media:

“Ukraine had a diverse media landscape and its authorities passed a number of overdue reforms since the 2014 revolution, including a law on transparency of media ownership. But these achievements are fragile.

“Much more is needed to loosen the grip of the oligarchs on the media, encourage editorial independence and fight impunity for violent crimes against journalists.

“The ‘information war’ with Russia has had negative consequences, including the banning of Russian media and social networks, cyber-harassment and treason trials.”

Since launching its invasion of Ukraine in February, the Kremlin has tightened its grip on independent media, largely stifling what was left.

Novaya Gazeta, TV Dozhd’, Echo Moskvy Radio, among other independent media, were forced to close. Hundreds of journalists left after the government criminalized independent reporting on the war in Ukraine, even using the word “war” instead of the Kremlin-mandated “special military operation”.

The Russian military in Ukraine have would have journalists intimidated and threatened, and Russian forces are accused of kidnapping Ukrainian journalists and holding them hostage.

The claim that the West and Ukraine are suppressing media freedom is part of Russia’s ongoing disinformation narrative. More recently, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov falsely claimed that the West was guilty of “totalitarian” censorship.

The narrative is pushed from above. In his April 25 address to the Collegium of the Attorney General’s Office, Putin claimed that as “Western intelligence” suffered a “fiasco” in the information war against Russia, it “turned to terror, preparing for the murder of our journalists”. ”

Ukraine’s security service, the SBU, denied the allegations as “fantasies concocted by Moscow.”

State press agenciestelevision and written press in Russia covered Putin’s comments at the same pace as a front-page story.

To be sure, Ukraine’s record on censorship is not without blemish. In February 2021, President Volodymir Zelenskyy decided to block TV channels belonging to Putin’s friend and ally Viktor Medvedchuk, a wealthy Ukrainian businessman who supported the Russian separatist war in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian officials said the Medvedchuk channels were funded by the Kremlin and had become instruments of war.

Medvedchuck, according to dispatches, had been identified before the Russian invasion by US intelligence as a possible puppet leader to replace Zelenskyy, should the war overthrow the Ukrainian government. Medvedchuck was charged by Ukraine with treason, then arrested and detained after escaping house arrest.

Zelenskyy suggested exchanging him for Ukrainian prisoners of war.

In an April 24 report, the Ukrainian independent non-profit organization Mass Information Institute said Russian forces had committed more than 200 crimes against journalists in the first two months of the war. In addition to the seven journalists killed, IMI said:

“The list of Russian crimes also includes bombings, threats, harassment of journalists, bombing and seizure of TV towers, hacking attacks on Ukrainian media websites, bombing of media offices, closing Ukrainian Broadcasting, blocking access to Ukrainian media websites in Russia and the U.S. Occupied Crimea.

“In addition, at least 106 regional media outlets were forced to cease operations due to threats from Russian occupiers, seizure of offices, inability to work under temporary occupation and to print newspapers, etc.”

Comments are closed.