185 infringement of journalists’ rights during election campaign
Monitoring carried out by the Institute for Mass Information has found that from 30 July to 31 October there were 185 infringements of journalists’ rights, with 115 of these directly linked with the parliamentary elections and / or with those infringing their rights candidates or MPs.
The number of infringements during the pre-election period was much higher than during any months prior to that in 2012. In January 6 infringements were recorded; in October – 85, i.e. 14 times more.
The most widespread infringements were obstructing journalists from carrying out their professional duties (98 cases). There were also:
37 cases where journalists were assaulted or intimidated;
32 law suits against the media;
13 cases of indirect pressure on media workers;
3 cases where journalists were unwarrantedly detained;
2 civil suits by media publications against election playwers.
There were a lot of occasions up till the elections on 28 October when journalists were not allowed into meetings between candidates and voters, or to large-scale events organized by them, or where they were prohibited from taking photos or videoing the even.
8 August Kateryna Samoilyk from the Communist Party prohibited Kherson journalist Tetyana Zhuchenko from being present at the even and photographing and videoing it.
10 September Oleksandr Vasylyev, candidate from the Party of the Regions for No. 59 (Donetsk oblast) rudely prohibited journalists from the Capri TV Channel from filming his meeting with voters. Iryna Prylepska, Chief Editor says that Vasylyev threatened to smash their cameras if the journalists didn’t stop filming, while his guards also threatened “to meet with them again” in the town where their office is located.
12 September a journalist from the newspaper “Point of view” [a play on the name of the election watchdog OPORA – translator] Yury Mochaev was pushed out of the premises where Party of the Regions candidate and former Governor of the Rivne oblast was speaking. Somebody also threatened to hurt both him and his video camera.
17 October a Channel 5 film crew was unable to get to a concert organized by Party of the Regions MP Vitaly Zhuravsky.
Journalists investigating voter bribery came under particular pressure.
On 15 October Kost Kovalenko who writes for the information agency HolosUA and other publications reported having been beaten up in Berdychev where he was investigating voter-buying in No. 63 single-mandate electoral district. He asserts that after arriving in Berdychev, he managed to get information about vote-buying by Petrenko. He says that he passed this information on to the civic network OPORA and international observers on 14 October. The next day, he asserts, he .was confronted by 21-30 burly men who proceeded to beat, intimidate and torture him. He says that he informed OPORA on 16 October and reported the incident to the police the following day.
On 22 October a film crew from the Kirovohrad Regional State TV channel were held by force in the headquarters of a Batkivshchyna candidate O. Tabalov where an attempt was made to remove their video camera and cassettes. Prior to this they had been gathering evidence suggesting bribing of voters, falsification of electoral documents and other infringements.
On 22 October journalist from a Transcarpathian newspaper Oleh Podebriy had his car smashed up after he investigated possible voter bribery by a Party of the Regions candidate Vasyl Kovach.
Not infrequently journalists face physical force, assaults and damage to their equipment. It is usually the charges of candidates or “unknown individuals” who are constantly near candidates.
In the Luhansk oblast it was a candidate who resorted to violence. Valery Moshensky from Lytvyn’s bloc hit journalist Ivan Zheved for videoing his meeting.
On 20 October in Brovary on the eve of a visit by Prime Minister Azarov two journalists – Alina Dyachenko and Amdriy Kachora – were assaulted and had their mobile telephones on which they’d been recording their attempt to get into the polling station smashed.
The search in the editorial office of the Internet publication Glavnoye (see http://khpg.org/index.php?id=1346163713).
The questioning of the Chief Editor of the TV Channel Avers and Chief Editor of Avers Press
IMI writes that law suits lodged by candidates against the press can be considered pressure on the media before the elections.
For example, a court suspended issue of the Irpin newspaper Osobysty Pohlyad [Personal View] following a law suit by City Council Deputy Dmytro Voitsekh.
Other local publications were also under threat of closure.
See, for example, Party of the Regions fails to close popular Rivne weekly
On 14 September candidate from the Party of the Regions for No. 149 Oleksy Lelyuk filed a suit against the Poltava editorial office of Gazeta po-ukrainsky over an interview with a member of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine [CVU] who had alleged that Lelyuk handed out sweets and flour from the State Reserve,
On 5 October an independent candidate for No. 123 in the Lviv oblast Taras Batenko filed a suit against the publication Varianty, also over allegations of beneficence at the state’s expense.
The State TV and Radio Broadcasting Committee says that as of 29 October 120 court rulings on cases involving alleged infringement by the media of electoral legislation on the basis of civil suits had been passed. In 48 cases the court allowed the claim.
They were most often against the printed press and involved complaints about refusing to publish advertising material; publication of untruthful information, etc.
The largest number was lodged by the opposition Batkivshchyna Party – 31, of which 17 were allowed.
Infringements on Election Day
As already reported, on on Election Day there were 16 reported cases where journalists were obstructed when carrying out their work. There was also one attack on a journalist and a case involving indirect pressure.
Most often journalists were not allowed into polling stations either during voting or the vote count, or else they were thrown out.
In Yarevyshche in the Volyn oblast the head of the Precinct Electoral Commission [PEC] from the Party of the Regions Ludmila Hrinchuk threw out journalist Volodymyr Voloshyn who was recording the spoiling of ballot papers.
In Dyula in the Transcarpathian oblast the Village Mayor Oleksandr Shopi took journalists ID away and pushed them away from PEC No. 210089.
Journalist from Halytsky Korespondent Markiana Prokhasya and several other journalists and observers were not admitted to the morning sessions of PEC No. 260430 in Kosmachi, Ivano-Frankivsk oblast.
In Krasny Luch, Luhansk oblast, Oleh Yatsenko from the newspaper Ukraina Moloda was thrown out of PEC No. 440898 (No. 108 electoral district) as he “got in their way”. The members of the committee did not provide a copy of the decision to remove him.
There were also cases where journalists were prohibited from videoing electoral commissions’ work.
The Head of the District Electoral Commission [DEC] No. 156 Serhiy Loskutov in the Rivne oblast stopped Georgy Oliynyk from taking photographs and threw him out of the building.
Loskutov also obstructed the work of journalists from the local TV channel RTB, lunging at a video camera and trying to grab the lens.
In Brovary, Kyiv oblast near the building housing DEC for District No. 97 somebody smashed the video camera belonging to Andriy Kachora, journalist from the Internet publication You have the right to know. The journalist was filming a member of the DEC Oleksandr Hrytsai giving comments to the State-owned UTV-1 and saying that the situation in Brovary was even calmer than they’d expected. The police who were present did not react.
There were a number of DDoS attacks on Internet publications and the sites of NGOs monitoring the elections or reporting such monitoring.
There were also “troll attacks” on the mobile telephones of various journalists and media lawyers.
There were less calls than in 2004 to journalist help-lines which Roman Holovenko from IMI suggests may be because journalists are better prepared for work on Election Day and more aware of their rights.
“For the first time we noted that during incidents of obstruction or misunderstandings at polling stations, journalists mainly turned to the police and not to the CEC or DEC. A duty police officer helped journalists in negotiations with members of the PEC, but refused to record violation of their rights. That did not apply to the situation in Kyiv where police officers pretended that they didn’t see the conflict”.
Part of monthly monitoring by the Institute for Mass Information with the support of the National Endowment for Democracy