The Final Death of Freedom of Speech in Ukraine

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


Today on social networks and news websites disturbing news appeared about the kidnapping in Kiev of a journalist from “Channel One” Anna Kurbatova. And Anna’s disappearance happened some time after her inclusion into the database of Mirotvorets. Fortunately, everything was resolved rather safely. After a couple of hours it became clear that Anna has been detained by the SBU, and will be soon deported outside the borders of Ukraine. The SBU commented on this extremely questionable matter: “Everything happens within the framework of legislation”. Probably, the Ukrainian authorities after many cases of abduction and murder decided to involve this most notorious “legislation” and started deporting from the country journalists inconvenient to the regime. One such case happened on August 29th.

Antonio Pampliega and Manuel Ángel Sastre, two Spanish journalists covering the conflict in the southeast of Ukraine, were detained for 20 hours at the airport of Kiev, and then thrown out of the country.

Strangely enough, there was a pretext for such disgusting treatment of representatives of foreign media. Antonio Pampliega published on his own Instagram a photo taken in one of the basements of Pervomaisk with the caption: “The boy lives here with all his family, hiding from the shelling that is conducted by the Ukrainian army”. It is the unpleasant truth for Ukraine, moreover from the lips of a foreign journalist! And now already every other day they are banned them entering Ukraine: “Yes, it is the truth, they (Antonio Pampliega and Manuel Ángel Sastre) were forbidden entrance because of their anti-Ukrainian activity in publications. We didn’t have any blacklists and we don’t have them,” stated the press secretary of the SBU Elena Gitlyanskaya.

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La guerra que sacude el Este de Ucrania, desde principios de 2014, Le ha condenado a vivir en un antiguo refugio antinuclear de la guerra fría. Vive allí junto a toda su familia, escondiéndose de los bombardeos, con los que castiga el ejército ucraniano, la localidad de Pervomaisk. Sus padres tienen miedo a que salga a jugar a la calle por si un proyectil cae cerca, por eso, en muy contadas ocasiones, sale al exterior. Se pasa la mayor parte del tiempo correteando por el refugio y jugando con los otros niños hace meses que no acude al colegio pero aún así, la guerra no le ha conseguido borrar la sonrisa. #Ucrania #bombardeos #separatistas #pervomaisk #Donetsk #guerra #infancia #colegio #refugio #guerrafria. Foto: A. Pampliega (diciembre 2014)

A post shared by Antonio Pampliega (@apampliega) on

Foreigners, as we see, are now also a threat. They, after all, can show to the world what mustn’t be shown:

The most interesting thing is that in many cases “anti-Ukrainian activity” is the reason for deportation. Although extremely vague wording, apparently, objective coverage of the situation became something illegal in Ukraine. The expulsion of “pen workers” is a disturbing signal that the international journalistic community should pay attention to. Without allowing journalists to carry out their professional activity, Ukraine in fact goes against those values for which there were people on the ill-fated Maidan. Ukraine doesn’t allow people to realize freedom of speech fully, otherwise how else is it possible to explain the banning of the harmless accredited press photographer Ramil Sitdikov and two journalists of the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper from “Eurovision”? What could these journalists have done to make the song competition anti-Ukrainian – photograph a pranker with a naked ass? And without them the photo spread all over the world.

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The fight against anti-Ukrainian activities, and in fact with freedom of speech goes beyond all imaginable limits and turns into absolutely absurd actions. And all of this would be nothing if this fight remained at an absurd, but safe level. But how is it possible to forget Oles Buzina, who was born, lived, and worked in Kiev, and was killed in his own Motherland. And what about the tragic case of Andrey Stenin, who was kidnapped and later murdered? The resonance of the case of Andrey was so big that the Human Rights Watch organization, which tried to intervene in the situation, appealed to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel with the demand to “resolutely and unambiguously condemn the series of arrests of Russian journalists in Ukraine”. As we remember, even this intervention didn’t help and didn’t change the situation.

Concerning the expulsion of the journalist of “Channel One”, one of the key roles was played by the website “Mirotvorets”. As it is specified in the website’s description – “The center for research into signs of crimes against the national security of Ukraine, peace, human security, and the international law”, but in fact the website publishes the personal information of people objectionable to the regime, who are then persecuted and systematically pressured. In Russia the website is officially blocked by Roskomnadzor, however, with some providers the website functions perfectly:

The website also works in Europe, it functions in Italy and Switzerland. But a website inciting hatred in relation to people who have an opinion of events in Ukraine and in the world should be blocked in all civilized countries.

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Within the three years that followed the events of Maidan, in Ukraine an anti-democratic system has formed. In this system journalists expressing an opinion that is bold and different from that of the State on current events can’t feel safe, and websites like “Mirotvorets” only add fuel to the fire.

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