Recently, journalists have gone missing, been detained and arrested in and around eastern Ukraine. Anti-press incidents were crowned by the statement of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk (PRD) that journalists are banned from the conflict area.
As translated by New York based Committee to Protest Journalists (CPJ), the ban published on July 23 reads: "In order to ensure personal safety for media workers, and due to the need for guaranteeing informational security for DPR's armed forces, on July 21 [self-declared DPR] Defense Minister Igor Strelkov issued an order, in accordance to which journalists, cameramen, and photojournalists are banned from making photo, video, and audio records."
At least two journalists are currently in detention. CNN reported that armed pro-Russian separatists seized Anton Skiba, a Ukrainian journalist who was freelancing for the network, on July 22. According to CNN, Skiba was initially accused of terrorism and of Facebook posts offering cash rewards for the killing of separatists. Later, CNN was told that he was a Ukrainian agent.
Two other journalists also went missing that day. British TV correspondent Graham Philips, who was working as a stringer for Russian English-language channel RT, and ANNA news agency cameraman Vadim Aksyonov were captured at the Donetsk airport. Aksyonov said the Ukranian army abducted, tortured and beat him and Philips alike. The cameraman was released while Philips is still in detention, according to reports.
According to CPJ, the situation of press freedom in the region has deteriorated further since the Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down in the Donetsk region on July 17.
Over the weekend, the security forces of the PRD arrested around ten foreign journalists who tried to enter a morgue in Donetsk while reporting on the MH17 tragedy. BBC reporter Kevin Bishop, Russian Daily Beast reporter Anna Nemtsova, U.S. Time reporter Simon Shuster, Italian journalist Lucia Sgueglia, and Paul Hansen and Jan Lewenhagen (who both work for the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter) were all captured. The journalists were quickly released after questioning.
A crew from RT, however, was held overnight. After that, a cameraman from the crew asked PRD Prime Minister Alexander Borodai at a news conference why they had spent a night in detention. Borodai answered: “You’re not a real journalist if you haven’t spent a night in the SBU [the Security Service of Ukraine].”
CPJ reports that six journalists have been killed in Ukraine this year, which rivals Syria as the deadliest country for media.