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Journalists in firing line of Ukraine backlash

Unions and campaign groups called for an end to violence against journalists in Ukraine

Unions and campaign groups called for an end to violence against journalists in Ukraine yesterday as the crisis marched towards civil war.

Russian reporters have been prevented from entering Ukraine, while local and international journalists have been harassed, abused, detained and had equipment seized.

News outlets have also been attacked and Russian language broadcasting signals have been disabled since February's fascist-backed coup in Kiev, while eastern Ukrainians hostile to the new regime have targeted Western journalists.

National Union of Journalists assistant general secretary Seamus Dooley said escalating attacks on journalists were a "grave concern."

He said: "The undermining of media freedom and the threat to the safety of media workers is unacceptable," he said.

"It is vital that independent journalists are granted access to Ukraine and are given the freedom to report without intimidation or harassment."

Attacks have been dished out by supporters of both Kiev's coup government and pro-Russian activists.

The most recent reports have come from the east of the country where journalists are flocking to cover the stand-off between local people and Ukrainian troops.

Vice magazine photojournalist Frederick Paxton was attacked on Monday by masked men in the eastern city of Horlivka.

He posted on Twitter: "Covered pro-Russia supporters storming police station in Horlivka, after the takeover mob turned nasty, smashed up camera and cards."

A BBC TV crew was threatened and had their equipment broken by crowds in the city of Slavyansk on Saturday.

Journalists have also been subject to reporting bans and heavy-handed treatment by Ukranian state officials.

At the Ukrainian border, journalists for Russia Today, the Kommersant newspaper and Forbes-Russia magazine reported that they had been refused access into the country.

That follows shocking scenes in Kiev last month when fascist MP Igor Miroshnichenko led an attack on the First National TV channel headquarters.

The channel's head Oleksandr Panteleymonov was beaten and forced to read a letter of resignation live to camera.

International Federation of Journalists president Jim Boumelha demanded that both factions respect the rights of journalists to report on the conflict.

"We strongly condemn these blatant and underhand attempts to undermine media freedom," he said.

"This abuse of media professionals covering events in Ukraine must end immediately."

The Committee to Protect Journalists also condemned the spate of attacks.

CPD co-ordinator Nina Ogianova said: "The tension in eastern Ukraine is rife with danger for local and international journalists alike.

"All sides in the stand-off should respect the role of the news media and refrain from harassing, obstructing and attacking journalists."

 

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