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Freedom of the Press in Ukraine: The Beastly Grin of Democracy

Ukrainian democracy suffered an attack on July 10th when during a protest journalists were beaten and one kidnapped

di Kanykei Tursunbaeva
Former representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office Massimo Introvigne: "The violence of the group in the video looks very strange. I do not know if they have a relation to the police, but the brutality in attacking a journalist is very surprising."

The video fragments about the attack on journalists in Odessa, which took place on 10th of July, 2018 circled the globe. The tear gas, rubber truncheons, kidnapping of a journalist – this is the way the real face of Ukrainian democracy looks like today. This precedent made European human rights organizations and monitoring missions of OBSE pay deliberate attention to Ukraine not fulfilling its obligations to the EU.

In July, 2018 Harlem Jean-Philippe Désir , OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media has noted more than 15 incidents of violation of international law norms in the view of journalists, which took place in Ukraine 2018. According to data provided by the National Union of Journalists in Ukraine, during the period from April to June of 2018 alone there were 22 reported attacks on journalists. Taken as a whole, according to the “Index of the physical safety of journalists in Ukraine” in the first half of 2018 there were 45 incidents of attacks on journalists.

Oleinik Pavel (left) and Grazevich Alexander (right) in the parking lot of the Redut law company

In March, 2018 security guards and supporters of the mayor of Odessa Gennadiy Trukhanov beat up the BBC journalist Andy Verity, who had been investigating the illegal purchase of the elite property in London by the company of Trukhanov.

On April 12, 2018 young people of an athletic build in Dnipro prevented video filming of the court session: they were pushing, threatening to inflict bodily harm, trying to snatch and damage the camera.

On May 10, 2018 while preparing a report of the protest action of the National Corps in the Kozin village near Kiev, the journalist suffered from the acts of siloviki (security officials). As a consequence, the journalist had his head broken, bruises on his arms and back.

On June 21, 2018 in Kiev at a meeting an unknown chemical substance was poured over the journalist. After contact with the liquid, her skin was covered with red spots and began to itch; she herself felt dizzy and heaviness in breathing.

The incident that took place in Odessa on July 10, 2018 stands out against this background by the fact that individuals who had physically attacked the journalists are representatives of the Odessa City Council .

Three cars belonging to the municipal guard arrived at Nekrasova street in the parking lot. All in all there were about 15 people who got out of the cars. All of them were dressed in a uniform with chevrons labeled “Municipal Guard”. Without showing any documents the representatives of the municipal enterprise “Municipal Guard” began dismantling the parking lot posts. At this time at the parking lot there were two of my colleagues from “Obshestvennyi Priboi” newspaper. They were interviewing employees of the “Redut” law company. As a matter of fact, within a few minutes the representatives of the municipal security began using special means in the form of tear gas. Afterwards, they began kicking the employees of the law company right in front my eyes. At that moment I attempted to stop the illegal actions of persons whom I didn’t know, having introduced myself as a journalist. After a few seconds, from two sides, the employees of the municipal enterprise “Municipal Guard” used tear gas against me, followed by several strikes with clubs on my head to the temple area; they threw me on the ground and inflicted several more strikes; by that time, I didn’t see anything and practically couldn’t hear anything (Konstantin Slobodyanuk, editor-in-chief of «Unsolved Crimes» newspaper)

As a result of the attack on journalists in Odessa, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper “Unsolved crimes” Slobodyanyuk Konstantin, as well as two journalists of the newspaper “Obshestvennyi Priboi” – Vitaly Tkachenko and Miroslav Bekchiv were beaten up. In the video one can see that the representatives of the Odessa City Council kidnapped journalist Miroslav Bekchiv. He was threatened with physical violence and taken away to an unknown destination.

At the moment, cases involving the crime of committed offenses by employees of the “Municipal Guard” of Odessa City Council: three criminal cases according to which six people are currently suspects. Former representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office Massimo Introvigne commented on the events in Ukraine as follows:

 The violence of the group in the video looks very strange. I do not know if they have a relation to the police, but the brutality in attacking a journalist is very surprising. Attacking the journalists who were filming what was happening puts Odessa law enforcement agencies and representatives of the local government in a bad light. This brings up the question, could it have happened not only because of the parking poles, but perhaps it was because of a demonstration of some primitive power and force?

It should be noted that this case might become the most resonant and large-scale in Ukraine in recent years. At the moment, law enforcement agencies are planning to initiate a number of criminal proceedings on the committed offenses in Odessa. Currently, the total number of persons who might be prosecuted for committed crimes amounts to 14. Perhaps this case will become an example for Ukrainian officials and security officials, which will demonstrate that their impunity is temporary, and that the judicial system of Ukraine is able to make fair decisions in similar cases.

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