Legal amendments, more responsive law enforcement agencies can enhance journalists’ safety, say speakers at OSCE-supported conference in Ukraine

KYIV, 3 February 2017 – The safety of journalists in Ukraine can be improved through legislative amendments and a better response from law enforcement agencies, said speakers at a conference which opened in Kyiv today, organized by the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Ukraine, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry, the Council of Europe Office in Ukraine, UNESCO and the Institute for Mass Information.

The participating journalists, together with representatives of the Interior and Defence Ministries, the Prosecutor General’s Office and the judiciary, discussed concrete proposals to improve legal safeguards and to enhance the practice of judges and prosecutors when they deal with cases of violence against journalists.

“It is of crucial importance for freedom of expression and freedom of the media, as well as the democratic development of any country, that the safety of journalists is ensured at all times and that impunity not be allowed to become commonplace,” the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, said.

Ambassador Vaidotas Verba, the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Ukraine, said: “The organizers of today’s conference are in complete agreement on the simple proposition that for journalists to exercise their essential role as defenders of democracy, they themselves must feel defended. For journalists to be defended the international community and journalists’ advocates stress that robust laws and proactive enforcement are needed.”

Anastasia Deeva, Deputy Minister at Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, welcomed efforts to strengthen the protection of journalists in response to the current conditions in Ukraine and noted: “Unfortunately today we can’t replicate any model from European countries to suit Ukrainian realities. We need something unique. We therefore ask our international partners to help us create a unique Ukrainian model in how we can improve the safety of journalists."

Marten Ehnberg, Head of the Council of Europe Office in Ukraine, said: “The safety and security of journalists and media professionals has become one of the main international concerns, unfortunately with reason. In many parts of Europe journalists continue to be intimidated, threatened, deprived of their liberty and even killed while carrying out their duties in performing investigative work, expressing their opinion or reporting. It results with self-censorship, fear and journalists leaving the profession, which is harmful to any democratic society."

The conference is part of an extra-budgetary project of the OSCE Project Co-ordinator on conflict-sensitive journalism. It both aims to support journalism that contributes to conflict resolution and also to improve the physical safety of journalists.