Crimea: Local authorities shut out the press
Deputies of the Saki City Council in the Crimea have in the last few days taken the unprecedented step of banning a local journalist from their session, and the city’s Mayor tried to have him physically removed from the meeting hall. The Editor of the newspaper “Crimea Today”, Andriy Krysko asserts that he City Council deliberately removed his accreditation since the newspaper has always been critical of local officials. Commentators point out that such situations where the local authorities have shut out the press have occurred in several regions of the Crimea over the last month.
Andriy Krysko stated at a press conference in Simferopol that force had been applied against him last week in order to throw him out of the City Council’s meeting. He says that he applied for accreditation at the end of last year as soon as the new City Council began work, but received no response. When he arrived at the meeting, a majority of the deputies voted for him to be removed. He refused to leave, and says that the Mayor tried to use force to remove him. “He hit the video recorder, tried to wrench it from my hands by force which is clearly beyond the scope of his official powers”.
Mr Krysko says that there has long been conflict between the newspaper and the Mayor of Saki. He as Editor has been threatened on many occasions and the Mayor and City Council have lodged over 30 civil suits, including demands that the court ban the newspaper from publishing information about the activities of the local authorities “without documentary confirmation”.
Representatives of the City Council also held a press conference on Monday where they denied Mr Krysko’s assertion that the Mayor had used physical force against him. With regard to the decision to remove the journalist, at first the Head of the Legal Department of the City Executive Committee, Ruslan Hundakov said that Mr Krysko had not had accreditation since they had received no request for such from him. It transpired, however, that they had received no requests from other journalists present in the hall who had been allowed to attend.
Then Mr Hundakov, as well as the head of the Party of the Regions faction in the City Council, Tetyana Borovyk asserted that the journalist had been thrown out because they didn’t know who he was. They claimed that he had not identified himself and had behaved in a provocative manner. Representatives of the Saki authorities did however consider that there was a political element to the conflict with the newspaper whose founder was the head of the election campaign headquarters in the Crimea for Yulia Tymoshenko and had later been elected to the City Council .
The Head of the Committee to Protect Journalists in the Crimea, Rahim Humbatov told Radio Svoboda that a similar situation had arisen recently in Alupka where deputies from the City Council had thrown out a reporter from the local newspaper “Alubika”. Crimean journalists also complain about the Mayor of Simferopol whom they allege has for a long time demonstratively refused to talk to the media.
Slightly abridged from a report by Volodymyr Prytula at