Press Freedom in the Crimea in 2008
A roundtable in the Crimea held on 29 April, on the eve of Press Freedom Day discussed the present situation in the Crimea and measures needed to counter obstruction of freedom of speech.
During the event, the annual “White Book of Crimean Journalism” was presented, as well as a new “Committee for the Support of Journalists”.
According to Volodymyr Prytula, Head of the Committee for the Monitoring of Press Freedom in the Crimea, there were three main problems which obstructed journalists in their work last year.
He said that the Committee has received a lot of information about censorship of the media in the Crimea. He added, however, that such reports were difficult to document since journalists, afraid of losing their jobs, refuse to make official statements.
According to unofficial data, censorship is retained in virtually all State-owned or municipal media outlets in the Crimea, as well as in many independent publications.
A second problem named was physical pressure on journalists for political motives and physical obstructions in carrying out their professional activities. Mr Prytula mentioned also the lack of adequate response from the law enforcement agencies. Not one such crime had been investigated through with the perpetrator punished.
As well as uncovered crimes from previous years, he mentioned cases from 2008 recorded in the “White Book”.
- the attack on the Editor and Publisher of the Alushhta newspaper “Freedom of Speech”, Vasyl Fomenko on 29 February 2008, when two people in masks broke into his home and beat him up, causing head and liver injuries.
- disruption of the television programme “Green Corridor” on Channel “Krym” when journalists were physically prevented from continuing their work. The police did initiate a criminal investigation over this incident on 21 August, however there has thus far been no progress. Volodymyr Prytula warns that the lack of consequences is creating a dangerous sense of impunity.
- the third problem named is ever increasing secrecy from the authorities. Attempts to restrict journalists continued in 2008 and remained the main infringement of their right to freely gather information. There had been complaints over refusals to provide information by public officials and bodies of local self-government from a whole range of media outlets. For example, the TV and radio company “Chornomorska” complained on several occasions of huge difficulty in receiving any information from officials at the Crimean parliament, ministries and departments. There were similar complaints from some newspapers.