Firebombs, Censorship, Wanted Lists. It's Not Looking Good for Media Freedom in Ukraine

In recent developments UK journalist Graham Philips has been added to Ukraine secret police wanted people registry, a newspaper offices in Kharkov were firebombed, and media workers are protesting against information control by Ukraine Ministry of Information

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This article originally appeared at New Cold

UK video journalist Graham Phillips and his film partner, Patrick John Lancaster, have been declared “wanted criminals” by Ukraine’s secret service, the SBU. The news is reported on Facebook by John Lancaster (report below).

The declaration by the SBU is part of the widespread crackdown on freedom of the press taking place in Ukraine. There have been at least five journalists killed since the beginning of the ‘Anti-Terrorist Operation’ of the Kyiv government in eastern Ukraine last April. They were killed by shelling by Ukraine armed forces and militia. One was Italian, the other four were Russian.

Elsewhere in Ukraine, Russian language newspapers, radio and television stations have been closed because they were deemed to be ‘security’ threats. Journalists deemed to be reporting the views of “seperatists” in eastern Ukraine face threats and harsh legal sanctions.

Meanwhile, journalists began staging protests in Kyiv in late November after the government announced the formation of a ‘Ministry of Information’ that will henceforth tightly control the dissemination of information.

The latest attack on media took place on Jan. 11 at the office in Kharkiv of the Ukrainian-language newspaper Slavyanska. At 2:20 pm, a mob of some 20 people broke the windows of the newspaper with stones and then threw firebombs inside. (See photo or weblink.) There were two people working inside.

The co-founder of the newspaper, Vladimir Abramenko, told that earlier in the day, the newspaper received a threatening phone call accusing the newspaper of voicing “separatist” views and demanding that it cease publication. “They called our newspaper pro-separatist, but we’ve never published separatist views. They threatened to kill and burn us.”

All this takes place as hundreds of thousands of people have taken part in street protests across France in the name of freedom of the press. Western media agencies have filled their pages with reports of the killings of the satirists and graphic artists working at the Charlie Hebdo weekly in Paris. Leaders of France and other NATO countries joined the march in Paris that reportedly drew more than one million people.

Most mainstream news agencies in the West along with the NATO governments have been utterly silent about the attacks on press freedom in Ukraine, including the killing of journalists. Similarly, they have ignored or denied the ruthless shelling of towns and cities in eastern Ukraine by the armed forces of Ukraine and its allied, rightist militias.

The denial of war crimes in eastern Ukraine by NATO governments is understandable: they are backing the Kyiv government and financing and arming it. But what is the excuse of Western media? They obscure Kyiv’s civil war, calling it an ‘armed conflict’ in which no one, apparently, is responsible, all the while decrying violence in the streets of Paris and crying to the heavens for freedom of the press.

Posted to the Facebook page of Patrick Lancaster on Jan. 9, 2015:

Just spoke to a colleague and friend. He told me he was arrested by the Ukraine army and turned over to the Ukraine secret service, SBU. They told him that Patrick Lancaster and Graham Phillips are wanted criminals and that he needed to supply them with information about us. When he refused, they beat and interrogated him for over 10 hours then put him out in the cold weather with little clothing. We are journalists and are being targeted for putting out the facts that we see. I will not let this hold me back. I will strive to bring all the facts I can to the public. Maybe by doing this I can save at least one civilian life.

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