The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on Ukrainian authorities to investigate claims that police attacked journalists covering a protest in Kiev, and to ensure the safety of the press.
The New York-based media watchdog said at least two journalists were injured in Kiev at the weekend protest, when police dismantled a protest camp near the national parliament building.
More than 100 opposition supporters were also detained amid clashes that left at least 20 people injured.
“We call on all Ukrainian police to respect the right of journalists to cover political events without fearing for their safety,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said in a statement.
“Ukrainian authorities must investigate attacks on journalists and punish those responsible to send a strong message that they support and protect a free press,” she added.
A police officer allegedly used pepper spray in the face of Serhiy Nuzhnenko, who works for the Ukrainian service of the U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), the outlet reported. Nuzhnenko was treated in a hospital for chemical burns, according to reports. Bohdan Kutiepov, with the independent television channel Hromadske, said a police officer kicked him and swore at him, according to the local Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group. Both journalists said they clearly identified themselves as press, according to reports. The Kiev Prosecutor’s Office said that it has opened a criminal investigation into possible police obstruction of Nuzhnenko’s professional activities.
It is not the first time that CPJ criticises the Kiev government. In September 2017, CPJ called on Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to reaffirm his commitment to ensuring journalists’ safety
In three separate cases, on August 14, 29, and 30, Ukraine’s state security service (SBU) agents expelled international journalists, and barred them from the country for three years. On August 14, the SBU detained Tamara Nersesyan, a special correspondent for the Russian state broadcaster VGTRK, in the street in Kiev, and brought her to the SBU headquarters where she was questioned for three hours about her reporting in eastern Ukraine. On August 29, the SBU announced it had barred Spanish freelance journalists Antonio Pampliega and Ángel Sastre over their reporting on the conflict in the east, and for posting allegedly anti-Ukrainian messages on social media. On August 30, unknown people grabbed Russian journalist Anna Kurbatova on the street in the center of Kiev, and she was later deported.
CPJ also expressed its disappointment over the lack of progress in the investigation into journalist Pavel Sheremet’s death in 2016.