By Tyler Castner.
Three television broadcasters in eastern Ukraine were attacked by pro-Russia activists in recent days amidst unrest following Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March.
About 50 masked demonstrators raided ATN television’s office in Kharkiv April 7, destroying electronics and journalists’ files and announcing they would “control” the station’s work, Reporters Without Borders said. Pro-Russian groups also staged unsuccessful attacks on the regional public television broadcaster in the eastern cities of Donetsk and Kharki and the offices of the IRTA station in Lugansk, the France-based press group said.
The attacks come as pro-Russia demonstrators have seized government offices in several eastern Ukrainian cities in scenes reminiscent of those that led to Russia’s annexation of Crimea last month. There were 44 attacks on journalists in Ukraine in March, including 30 in Crimea and eight in eastern Ukraine, according to the Institute of Mass Information, a Ukrainian press group affiliated with Reporters Without Borders.
On April 8, journalists gathered in Kharkiv to protest the recent violence and demand the freedom to work in the region. The National Union of Journalists and the Union of Independent Media issued a joint statement calling on authorities to protect journalists reporting on the conflict, according to IMI.
The Committee to Protect Journalists also condemned the increase in media harassment. Muzaffar Suleymanov, the Europe and Central Asia research associate for the New York-based press group, called for an investigation into the attacks.
“All actors in eastern Ukraine must respect journalists' right to gather and disseminate information to the public," Suleymanov said. "By investigating these attacks and bringing the perpetrators to justice, Ukrainian authorities can demonstrate their commitment to democracy."