National Press Club

National Press Club urges all sides in Ukraine to respect press freedom

May 5, 2014 | By Rachel Oswald | rachelm.oswald@gmail.com

The National Press Club voiced strong concern May 5 over a spate of recent physical attacks and kidnappings affecting journalists covering the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The rash of recent kidnappings includes the brief detainment and interrogation on May 2 of BuzzFeed correspondent Mike Giglio, his translator Olena Glazunova, and a CBS News team. The kidnappers reportedly were pro-Russian militants.

In Giglio’s account of the kidnapping, he speculated that Western journalists were being targeted by local separatists as a result of news reports by Russian state-controlled media that had blamed the violence in Ukraine on plots hatched by the United States. CBS News correspondent Clarissa Ward offered a similar view of the situation in an interview about her abduction.

"The kidnapping, beating and intimidation of journalists under any circumstances is deplorable," said Myron Belkind, president of the National Press Club. "We strongly urge all sides in the Ukraine conflict to cease any rhetoric that encourages or excuses violence against journalists and to open investigations into the recent incidents where reporters and media workers have been beaten, kidnapped and in some instances murdered."

Two Ukrainian journalists -- Sergei Shapoval and Yuri Lelyavsky -- were reportedly abducted on different days in late April in Sloviansk by pro-Russian militants and have yet to be released. Another Ukrainian reporter, Ruslan Kukharchuk, was abducted on April 27 in the same city and held for 13 hours by separatists who beat him and accused him of disseminating "incorrect" news reports about the Ukrainian conflict, according to press freedom groups.

Additional Ukrainian and foreign journalists, including a London ITV reporter and his cameraman, were physically attacked in recent days by militants.

The Committee to Protect Journalists attributes the recent uptick on attacks on journalists to previous assaults on media workers covering the conflict going unpunished.