Ukraine: Press freedom violations August 2019
There were 9 incidents in Ukraine in July 2019 recorded by Index's monitoring project.
11 Sep 19


Index on Censorship’s Monitoring and Advocating for Media Freedom project tracks press freedom violations in five countries: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. Learn more.

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TV crew assaulted while reporting on illegal logging in Kharkiv region

28 August 2018 — Unknown individuals attacked a 112-Ukraine TV crew, which was reporting on illegal logging and theft of wood in the village Zolochiv, in the Kharkiv region, 112-Ukraine TV channel reported.

A group of men blocked the journalists’ car and struck its wheels, threatening the journalists with physical violence. A TV reporter called the police, who arrived, but did not intervene. Journalist Oleg Reshetnyak went on the air, described the situation, but the assaulters noticed this and took the camera during the live broadcast.

Reshetnyak was beaten during the assault. An ambulance was called to him.

UPDATE: 29 August 2019 — Police detained 49 individuals suspected of assaulting a television crew, Kharkiv region police reported.

“A conflict between security guards and journalists arose during the shooting of the video. Security guards blocked the car, tried to seize the camcorder and injured a journalist,” the Kharkiv region police press service reported. 

One of the most active individuals is suspected of “obstruction of legitimate professional activity of journalists.” Two more individuals have been detained on suspicion of “threatening or abusing a journalist.”

According to police, private guards working for the logging company used violence, blocked the TV crew’s car, tried to seize the camcorder and injured the journalist. The journalist received multiple injuries to their back and kidneys, as well as bruises on their face. 


Categories: Blocked Access, Physical Assault/Injury, Attack to Property, Intimidation

Source of violation: Known private individual(s)

TV correspondent harassed at nationalist rally

24 August 2019 — Nash/Maxi TV journalist Bogdan Karabyniosh was harassed on-air by unknown individuals at a nationalist march in Kyiv, Detector Media reported. 

During a live broadcast, participants in the march people called the channel pro-Russian, shouted the name of the owner of the channel, Volodymyr Murayev, and Vladimir Putin. Afterwards, the unknown individuals called on the journalist to leave and not interfere with the rally. The journalist considered such actions as obstruction of his journalistic activity.   


Categories: Blocked Access

Source of violation: Unknown

Chief of Staff sues investigative journalists

20 August 2019 — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s Chief of Staff Andriy Bohdan filed the lawsuit in the Shevchenko District Court of Kyiv against three journalists from Schemes, an investigative program that’s a joint production of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and public broadcaster UA:Pershyi. The three journalists are Nataliya Sedletska, Valeria Yegoshina, and Maksym Savchuk, Kyivpost reported.

The details of the lawsuit are currently unavailable, so it is unclear which of Schemes’ reports about the presidential aide Bohdan found defamatory.

“At this point, we have not received the text of Bohdan’s lawsuit. Therefore, we cannot comment on it,” the editorial board of Schemes wrote on Twitter on Aug. 21. “We are confident that the information we publish is reliable and are ready for the trial.”

Bohdan is a former lawyer whose most famous client was oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky. After Zelenskiy’s victory in the presidential election, Bohdan was appointed his chief of staff, heightening concerns over Kolomoisky’s suspected influence on the new president.

Schemes did several investigations into Bohdan. One of them revealed his multiple trips to Tel Aviv, where Kolomoisky resided at the time, while the lawyer was de facto running Zelensky’s election campaign. The show also reported on his secret meeting with the then-head of the constitutional court.

In an interview with Ukrayinska Pravda published on April 25, Bohdan said he was preparing to sue Schemes’ journalists for spreading false information that he had taken 11 flights to Russia, six of which were through Belarus. However, the journalists never reported that. In their investigation, they said Bohdan had made three trips to Russia since 2014 and crossed the Belarusian border 11 times “in an unknown direction during 2018-2019.”


Categories: Subpoena / Court Order/ Lawsuits

Source of violation: Government/State Agency/Public official(s)/Political party

Drunk man assaults local TV crew

16 August 2019 — A drunk patron of a shop assaulted members of a TV crew from a regional TV station in Mariupol, Mariupol News reported. The name of the TV channel and the names of journalists were not disclosed.

The individual hit the cameraman and damaged a video camera, the local police press service reported. Journalists filed a complaint to the police. The officers found the offender, who turned out to be a 44-year-old resident of Mariupol. 

The incident was investigated as an “obstruction of the legitimate professional activities of journalists”, which is punishable with up to three years in prison.


Categories: Physical Assault/Injury, Attack to Property

Source of violation: Known private individual(s)

MP calls journalist “a stupid sheep”

18 August 2019 — Maxim Buzhansky, a member of the Ukrainian parliament, who belongs to president Volodymyr Zelensky’s political party, called Olga Dukhnich, a journalist working for  Novoe Vremya (New Time) “a stupid sheep”, Ukrayinska Pravda reported. 

“Another stupid sheep who is a journalist for the odious media Novoe Vremya said in an interview with a representative of Servant of the People political party that I was nostalgic for the USSR and president Yanukovych’s times. I understand that some colleagues are too restrained to call things by their names, so I will help them. A stupid sheep from the odious media,” Buzhanskiy posted on his Telegram public channel. 

In response, Dukhnich posted on Facebook that “to answer to Mr. Buzhansky is like trying to figure out a relationship with a pigeon that shit on your coat sleeve.” The journalist called on the  politician to apologise to Novoe Vremya, which is a weekly magazine.

In an interview with the leader of Servant of the People, Dmytro Razumkov, Dukhnich said that Buzhanskiy was “nostalgic for the USSR and Viktor Yanukovych’s time.” Razumkov, for his part, said the MPs should be judged for the current and future acts.

In July 2019, parliamentary elections were held. Servant of the People Zelensky’s party gained more than 43 percent of the vote.


Categories: Online Defamation/Discredit/Harassment/Verbal Abuse

Source of violation: Government/State Agency/Public official(s)/Political party

Court leaves journalist under house arrest

15 August 2019 — The Korolyovsky District Court of Zhytomyr ruled that journalist and blogger Vasyl Muravitsky should remain under house arrest until 12 October 2019, Ukrinform news agency reported.

Prosecutor Vadym Levchenko filed a motion to change Muravitsky’s pre-trial detention from 24-hour house arrest to remand in custody. According to the prosecutor, there were risks that Muravitsky may hide or commit similar crimes by “writing publications on anti-Ukrainian topics.”

The journalist’s lawyer, Svitlana Novitska, insisted on changing the measure of restraint on personal commitment or bail, instead of house arrest.

At a court hearing the prosecutor read out Muravitsky’s correspondence with other individuals, in which publications, various Ukrainian politicians, the organisation of a press conference and fees were mentioned. In addition, the prosecutor provided a disk with screenshots of Muravitsky’s correspondence on Facebook, Telegram, Skype, as well as the e-mails.

The lawyer noted that such evidence is clearly inadmissible and is an interference with the private correspondence of her client. The prosecutor replied that the investigating judge allowed him to examine the journalist’s correspondence. The court took into consideration the evidence provided by the prosecution, Ukrinform reported.

On 2 August 2017, Muravitsky was arrested on suspicion of treason and undermining the territorial integrity of Ukraine because he worked for Russian news agencies. Until June 27 2018, the journalist was in custody, after which the court changed the preventive measure to house arrest. 

On 6 August 2018, after the court hearing in Zhytomyr, activists from neo-Nazi C14 group splashed Muravitsky with the dye brilliant green as he left the building. (Known as ‘zelenka’, this dye was widely used as an antiseptic during the Soviet period but is now increasingly used in attacks against dissidents and political opponents in Russia and Ukraine, where it is still readily available. It is extremely difficult to wash off the skin, and though not as corrosive as most acids, it can cause chemical burns.)


Categories: Arrest/Detention/Interrogation, Criminal Charges/Fines/Sentences

Source of violation: Government/State Agency/Public official(s)/Political party

Man harasses TV crew in Odessa

8 August 2019 — An unidentified person interfered with and harassed a Dumskaya TV crew in a casino, reported. 

The individual began to threaten the news crew when they learned that a live broadcast was in progress. “If I see myself on the TV screen, you will have a lot of trouble,” the man said to a female journalist who wanted to talk about possible gambling legislation.

The individual forcibly took the camera from the cameraman. The crew’s equipment was damaged as a result of the incident. 

The journalists filed a complaint with the police. 


Categories: Physical Assault/Injury, Attack to Property, Intimidation

Source of violation: Unknown

MP called to attack pro-Russian TV channels with anti-tank missile

12 August 2019 — Appearing on Pryamiy TV, People’s Front MP Serhiy Vysotsky said pro-Russian television channels should be blown up with an anti-tank missile, reported. 

“These channels that we are talking about, they work against Ukraine — in favor of the enemy, all the journalists who work there — they are combatants of the Russian Federation. And what should be done with them is to blow them up with an anti-tank guided missile, that is, to close them,” Vysotsky said during a talk show.

The head of the National Union of Journalists, Serhiy Tomilenko, commented that the deputy’s appeal was an incitement to hostility which is criminalised in Ukraine. 

“With anxiety I note the escalation of pressure on the TV channel. I hope that the new government will find the strength to preserve freedom of expression, to stop the pressure and to ensure the right of journalists to the profession,” the Channel 112 Ukraine CEO Yehor Benkendorf said.

On July 13 2019, the main office of TV Channel 112 Ukraine was attacked with a rocket-propelled grenade in Kyiv. The police still haven’t found the offenders.

During the parliamentary elections of 2019, Vysotsky ran for European Solidarity political party of the ex-president Poroshenko, but was not elected.


Categories: Intimidation

Source of violation: Government/State Agency/Public official(s)/Political party

Court rules against independent TV channel

6 August 2019 — The commercial court of Kyiv granted far right group C14’s claim against Hromadske TV, Hromadske reported. 

C14 filed a lawsuit against Hromadske TV “on the protection of honour, dignity and business reputation” in July 2018. One of the documents in the statement of claim featured a copy of a tweet posted to the Twitter of the media organization’s English-language service Hromadske International, which describes C14 as a “neo-Nazi group”. The tweet was posted on May 4 2018, when representatives of C14 captured and forcefully took Brazilian militant Rafael Lusvarghi to Ukraine’s Security Service.

The court noted that the information circulated by Hromadske in May 2018 “harms the reputation” of C14 and ordered Hromadske to refute the information and pay 3,500UAH ($136) in court fees to C14.

Olena Tchaikovska, the attorney for Hromadske TV, called the decision “incorrect and illegal.” “It introduces an egregious tendency that suppresses freedom of speech. We will appeal it,”  she said.

“We are surprised by this decision. Not only does it contradict the judicial logic, but is also a dangerous precedent for other media and for freedom of speech in general,” editor-in-chief of Hromadske Angelina Karyakina said of the decision.

“The position of C14 is that they are not a neo-Nazi group in their activities or in the nature of their activities. They are a nationalist group, but they are by no means neo-Nazi,” said Victor Moroz, C14’s lawyer at a previous court hearing. According to Moroz, what Hromadske called the organisation harms the business reputation of C14.

Hromadske television defends its position and insisted that it did not commit any violations by characterising the organisation as “neo-Nazi.”


7 August 2019 — A number of international human rights organisations have criticised the decision of the commercial court of Kyiv, the Institute of Mass Information reported. 

Freedom House Ukraine qualified this decision as a dangerous precedent of interference with freedom of opinion and expression in Ukraine. “C14 can contest/deny Hromadske’s characterisation but it is the right of the media to publish their view, in good faith, based on the information they gathered” on C14 and its members, “many of whom declared that they joined the group because of its neo-Nazi orientation”, Matthew Shaaf, director of Freedom House Ukraine said on. Shaaf believes an increase in self-censorship among media in Ukraine could be the most pernicious impact of ruling against Hromadske for calling C14 neo-Nazi. 

Reporters sans Frontiers called the court’s decision “shameful.” Johann Birr, Director of the RSF branch in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, expressed his full support for Hromadske. “A shameful decision, with worrying implications for independent reporting on Ukraine‘s far right groups!” Birr posted on Twitter.

Investigators from Bellingcat said the phrase “neo-Nazi” should be used to describe C14.


Categories: Subpoena / Court Order/ Lawsuits, Legal Measures

Source of violation: Government/State Agency/Public official(s)/Political party

Local TV crew assaulted

1 August 2019 – A Kapri TV crew was assaulted by unidentified individuals and a political aid of a parliamentary candidate in Pokrovsk Donetsk region, the Institute of Mass Information reported. 

As a result of the assault, the cameraman received a concussion, his camera and mobile phone belong to journalist Alyona Sobolenko were damaged.  

According to Sobolenko, Vitalii Verbicky, a political aide working for MP candidate Ruslan Trebushkin, broke her smartphone after snatching it from her hands as she attempted to enter the building. Verbicky then forcefully shoved the cameraman into the building where a meeting of the members of the district election commission and the city leadership was taking place. 

The journalists had gone to the offices to investigate why the election commission members were not engaged in recounting a local vote, but instead were meeting with Trebushkin himself behind closed doors. 

Once in the building the cameraman reported he was assaulted and his camera was broken. The individuals also destroyed the memory card containing video, Sobolenko said. The cameraman said he was threatened with further violence and that the men wanted to know if there were additional TV crews outside. The cameraman was prevented from leaving the building for half an hour. 

Sobolenko, who remained in the parking lot, called the police to the scene of the incident. “The police did not arrive at once, I had to call three times, but the officers were in no hurry … We were very worried because we did not know what was going on behind closed doors in the room… We recorded the beating in the hospital, and today called an ambulance again because the cameraman had dizziness, he was diagnosed with a brain injury,” Sobolenko told IMI.

When the police finally arrived, they were prevented from accessing the building by a crowd of men, who blocked the entrance. Subsequently, the police called for reinforcements and freed the cameraman.

The journalists filed a complaint with the police. A criminal case was opened on the article  “obstruction of journalists’ legal activities.”


Categories: Physical Assault/Injury, Attack to Property, Intimidation

Source of violation: Unknown, Known private individual(s)

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