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Press freedom ‘shrinking’ in Ukraine – Reporters Without Borders

The non-profit group has cited surveillance and threats of forceful enlistment into the military faced by independent journalists

FILE PHOTO. ©  Marcus Yam/Getty Images

Independent media outlets are being subjected to growing pressure in Ukraine, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has warned. The non-profit group urged the government in Kiev to combat impunity for violent crimes against reporters and to end arbitrary restrictions regarding coverage of the conflict with Russia.

Ukrainian leader Vladimir Zelensky signed a law in 2022 that significantly expanded the government’s media regulation powers, allowing for outlets to be temporarily banned. The legislation came under fire both domestically and in the West at the time.

On Wednesday, RSF released a report titled ‘Shrinking press freedom in Ukraine: urgent need to implement a roadmap for the right to information’, which claimed that “political pressure and obstacles are mounting on the Ukrainian media.”

“Since the beginning of 2024, at least five journalists have been under surveillance or threatened because of publications on corruption,” the group estimated. The document details in particular how the threat of forcible enlistment into the Ukrainian armed forces has been used to silence reporters.

READ MORE: Ukraine censoring information – US State Department

Moreover, it accused Ukrainian authorities of directly interfering in the work of some media outlets. RSF cited the case of Ukrinform, which had a military representative installed at its helm last month. Around the same time, the existence of ‘stop lists’ of guests banned from being invited on air by the same media outlet was revealed, the report wrote.

RSF went on to denounce a decree passed earlier this month that obliged journalists to submit any quotes and interviews with military personnel to a special center for strategic military communications for clearing.

“The pressure, threats and interference must stop… the Ukrainian media landscape remains fragile,” Jeanne Cavelier, head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, emphasized.

Citing Ukrainian journalists and monitoring groups, the New York Times reported on Tuesday that the government in Kiev has increasingly been curtailing press freedoms, in a manner that cannot be justified by wartime security needs.

According to the article, the authorities in Kiev are trying to ensure that the opposition, especially the party of former president Petro Poroshenko, does not receive positive coverage in the press, and that the government and the military are never criticized.

The newspaper claimed that the Ukrainian government has also had “tense relationships” with Western media throughout the conflict, temporarily revoking military press passes for journalists from several outlets, following reports criticizing the military.

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