RSF drafts a ‘roadmap’ for Kiev

Brussels, 17 May 2023 – Following the ban of media reporting from Ukraine under the allegation of being ‘pro-Russian’ and the expulsion of some journalists covering the conflict, RSF, Reporters Sans Frontières, representatives were today to Kiyv to call Zelensky’s executive to restore freedom of press in the war torn country fighting against Russian occupiers.

RSF secretary Christophe Deloire introduced a ‘roadmap’ in eight points to strengthen freedom of press, calling the government and the judiciary to guarantee and promote media pluralism and independence and to respect international standards of free journalism.

“War crimes against the media and journalists are committed on an industrial scale by the Russian armed forces. We are impressed by their resilience despite this context. We want to support democratic Ukraine to continue on this path, hence our proposals to strengthen its information space”, said Christophe Deloire

Photo RSF © Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) – 2023

The international organisation enhancing press freedom, handed its proposal to the Ukrainian presidency, to the Culture Ministry in charge for the media and to the Office of the General Prosecutor.

“The series of proposals – says RSF – aims to reinforce the independence, the pluralism and the quality of journalism”.

The 8 points of the RSF proposal:

1) End abusive restrictions or discrimination in war coverage
2) Promoting media pluralism and independence
3) Securing funding for journalism
4) Fostering quality journalism in the digital and economic ecosystems through the implementation of the Journalism Trust Initiative (JTI) emergency protocol
5) Join the International Partnership on Information and Democracy, a multilateral initiative started by RSF to design and implement democratic guarantees in the digital space
6) Develop and promote the legal framework proposed under the name of “system of protection” of democratic information spaces
7) Fight against impunity for crimes against journalists, making it a priority for justice
8) Bring to justice those responsible for the propaganda who incited war crime

Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Kyiv banned journalists with allegations of being ‘pro-Russian’ such as the two Italian freelancers Andrea Sceresini e Alfredo Bosco whose accreditations have been suspended 6 February this year while reporting from Bakhmut. Many others have been blacklisted and can’t re-enter Ukraine for five years, while notably Ukrainian Defense Ministry revoked CNN and Sky News video reporting crews’ accreditation while reporting from Bakhmut.

As of today 15,000 journalists are accredited to cover the war in the Ukrainian territory. “The accreditations are a significant challenge for the Ukrainian authorities – explained today at the conference Jeanne Cavelier, head of Eastern Europe and Central Asia bureau at RSF – ”We call for an official communication and clarification and for the suspension of restrictions on the accreditations of journalists reporting from the front, and also to fight against all discriminations against the media”.

A contested bill accused of reducing media freedom in the country was drafted by Zelensky’s Servant of the People party in 2019, before Russian invasion, and then reproposed in 2020 after the war started. Both CPJ (Committee to Protect Journalists) and EFJ (European Federation of Journalists) called Ukraine to withdraw the bill as it would give the government powers to shut down media outlets easily and to restrict media freedom.

“A revision of Ukraine’s outdated media legislation is necessary if the country wants to meet European Union standards, but legislators must not use such reforms as a pretext to expand government control over information,” said in 2019 Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director in Madrid.

After Zelensky signed the controversial bill, EFJ called him to withdraw the law which expanded government regulatory powers over news media: “The new Media Law signed by President Zelensky threatens media freedom. The International and European Federations of Journalists call on the European Commission and the Council of Europe to convince the Ukrainian authorities to review the law, in consultation with journalists’ organizations and the media”.

Justine de Braeme