Stop Censorship vows to make the authorities investigate attack on journalists
Olha Snitsarchuk and Vlad Sodel
10 days have elapsed since journalists Olha Snitsarchuk and Vlad Sodel were attacked by hired thugs while police watched. Members of the civic movement Stop Censorship note the authorities’ limp passiveness in (not) properly investigating the incident. They are taking away the tent they set up outside the Interior Ministry but promise that they will not give in and will force the authorities to respond.
Natalia Sokolenko reports that during these 10 days the authorities have done too little in the public sphere. The journalists involved had asked for a public meeting with Interior Minister Zakharchenko. Instead they were offered some kind of meetings between closed doors with various individuals. She particularly points to the President’s silence, saying that as the Guarantor of the Constitution he should have found the time, the strength and the intelligence to condemn the attack on the journalists.
The journalists decided to take down the tent erected on 27 May, saying that decisions regarding the attack on their colleagues are not taken in the Interior Ministry.
As reported, on 18 May an “antifascist” rally was organized by the ruling party to counter the planned opposition rally “Rise Ukraine”. While the two demonstrations passed peacefully, there were obvious attempts by hired thugs to provoke trouble.
During the afternoon Olha Snitsarchuk from TV Channel 5 and her husband, Vlad Sodel from Komersant Ukraine approached a group of VO Svoboda supporters coming under attack from around 50 athletic looking thugs. Some of the latter first turned on Vlad Sodel when they saw him taking photographs then one began attacking Olha Snitsarchuk. The police just stood and watched, ignoring requests for help (and the very obvious need to intervene).
Following outrage, Interior Minister spoke in parliament where he:
informed that the assailant had been arrested on a charge of “hooliganism”,
showed a video in which this same alleged assailant, Vadim Tytushko, supposedly while still at liberty gives his account of the situation and asserts that he was hired to “protect the opposition”. Zakharchenko claimed that the problems had been caused by athletic young men hired by the opposition.
As reported, this fails to explain why in that case the thugs were attacking members of the opposition VO Svoboda party. It is also worth noting that Tytushko was released on bail which is relatively uncommon in Ukraine. There have also been attempts to claim that the two journalists were “nationalists”, etc and not there carrying out their official duties.
Four days later
a group of journalists staged an entirely peaceful protest during the opening of the Cabinet of Ministers meeting. They had placards on their back with the following words:
Today it’s a (female) journalist
Tomorrow it’s your wife, sister, daughter
Prime Minister Azarov’s response was to throw them out and get them stripped of their accreditation. He claimed that they were turning the Cabinet of Ministers meeting into a “circus”.
He later backed down over the accreditation which caused outrage under the circumstances. The police and the authorities had taken no action when journalists and citizens were attacked, and then the Prime Minister tried to prevent others from expressing concern in a perfect peaceful manner.