Vienna, 15 June 2015
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the outset, the Delegation of Ukraine would like to commend the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Ms. Dunja Mijatović for organizing this Conference and placing the important topic of journalists’ safety, media freedom and pluralism in times of conflict high on the OSCE agenda. We thank the OSCE Representative Ms. Mijatović, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Mr. Šimonović, and the keynote speaker Mr. Gutman for their thoughtful presentations. Indeed, there are striking resemblances between aggression and efforts to conceal it as witnessed in the past and the current Russian aggression against Ukraine. Today’s intervention of the Russian representative again testified to that effect.
We view today’s event as an important OSCE contribution to the overall international efforts to protect journalists in situations of conflicts and the threat of terrorism. This Conference is convened in the footsteps of the recent adoption of the UN Security Council Resolution 2222 on the protection of journalists, as well as the joint declaration on freedom of expression and responses to conflict situations of the UN, OSCE, OAS and ACHPR special representatives.
Strengthening freedom of the media, including the safety of journalists, is a priority for Ukraine. Ukraine recognizes the fundamental importance of freedom of expression and the principles of diversity and pluralism, as a core element of democracy. The Ukrainian Government is committed to further safeguard and promote media freedom and protection of journalists in the country in accordance with the relevant OSCE commitments and international standards, in particular the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the European Convention on Human Rights.
This Conference takes place at a particularly challenging time, when fundamental OSCE principles and commitments have been violated by Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine.
Numerous independent reports, including by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine and the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, provide ample evidence that Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea and its aggression in Donbas have been accompanied by grave violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, while freedom of expression, media and journalists have been among the first targets of the aggressor.
Murders, physical assaults, kidnappings, intimidation and threats against members of the media are among most grave human rights’ violations in temporarily occupied certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. Media freedom has been significantly undermined in the affected regions, where the Ukrainian TV channels had been illegally cut-off and replaced by state television channels originating from the Russian Federation.
The space for freedom of expression in the temporarily occupied Crimea has shrunk with the forced closure of Crimean Tatar media outlets, including television channels, radio stations, news agencies, newspapers and others. All Ukrainian-language printed media and regional media in Crimea have been closed, the use of Ukrainian websites is blocked. All these illegal actions by the occupying authorities are in contravention of international law, in particular the UN GA Resolution 68/262 “Territorial integrity of Ukraine”
The Russian state-controlled media have been purposefully used as a “hybrid war” instrument against Ukraine, aimed at destroying peace and security in Ukraine. Anti-Ukrainian falsifications and manipulations, defying norms of journalistic ethics and human morality, deliberately incite inter-ethnic hatred and violence and are utilized to disseminate propaganda, promote aggressive nationalism and chauvinism, which runs counter to a number of the OSCE principles and commitments.
The current Russian aggression and dire circumstances for the media in the occupied Crimea and conflict-affected areas of Donbas cannot be seen in isolation from the media freedom regress in Russia over years.
With over three hundred of journalists killed and disappeared in Russia since 1993, where in most cases the perpetrators have not been brought to justice, the Russian Federation remains one of the most dangerous places for journalists in the OSCE region with the highest number of journalists brutally attacked and killed in the past 15 years. The few Russian journalists and media outlets who attempt to objectively report today on the events in eastern Ukraine are attacked, harassed and threatened. We invite the Representative on Freedom of the Media to give due attention to those issues threatening freedom of the media in Russia and beyond.
We are convinced that effective international measures must be developed to counter propaganda. The intentional governmental abuses of journalists and media to incite hatred and violence, to justify aggression and condone terrorism do not belong to the freedom of speech. Freedom from propaganda must be one of the fundamental human rights.
We look forward that recommendations of the present Conference will contribute to better understanding on how to counter propaganda, as well as on how to respond, maintaining commitment to media freedom, in situations of conflict when one participating State uses media as an instrument of warfare in its aggression against another participating State.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Ukraine strongly condemns all attacks against journalists. The journalists’ safety must be guaranteed at all times. The Ukrainian authorities undertake comprehensive and impartial investigation of the cases of violence and intimidation of members of the media.
On 14 May 2015, the Ukrainian Parliament adopted important legislative steps to further enhance journalists’ safety in Ukraine by introducing criminal responsibility for hindering journalists’ work. In addition, amendments have been adopted to the law on support of mass media and social protection of journalists. These steps have been welcomed by the OSCE RFoM.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are confident that the OSCE must continue to spearhead it efforts towards protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms in light of current grave challenges to human dignity and security in the OSCE region, resulting from Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
We wish all participants a useful exchange of ideas and hope that the discussion would translate into developing relevant practical recommendations and action.
Let me conclude by thanking again Ms. Dunja Mijatović and her team for convening this important event, as well as to commend RFoM’s dedicated efforts on the media related issues across the OSCE region.