Watchdog: Freedom Of Speech In Ukraine Deteriorates

Ukraine saw an increase in freedom of speech violations in 2019, local media watchdog Institute of Mass Information (IMI) said in a yearly report.

Published on January 16, the Freedom of Speech Barometer report stated there were 243 such cases in 2019, eight more than the previous year.

It noted that for the first time in three years, a journalist was killed.

Vadym Komarov died on June 20 following an attack in May in Cherkassy, a city in central Ukraine 192 kilometers south of Kyiv.

Most of the recorded freedom-of-speech-violations — 172 — were related to “physical aggression against journalists,” the report found.

The reason for the worsening situation, according to Kateryna Dyachuk, the head of IMI’s freedom of speech monitoring department, is that investigations of such violations aren’t done in a systemic matter.

She also cited “increased pressure from media owners and politicians, both of whom contribute to discrediting journalism, plus there is not much solidarity in journalistic circles.”

The other categories of violations included obstruction of carrying out professional duties (99), threats (37), beatings (23), failure to receive access to information (21), cyberattacks and legal pressure (18 each), and censorship (6).

IMI also said it is virtually impossible for independent journalists to work in Russia-occupied Crimea or the parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions that Kyiv doesn’t control.

In its yearly report, the Brussels-based European Federation of Journalists said that 49 journalists were killed last year, including two in Europe: Komarov and Lyra McKee, who was shot dead on April 19 while covering a riot in Northern Ireland.

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