Speaking on International Human Rights Day (10 December) at the Brussels Press Club, Andriy Domansky, a prominent Ukrainian lawyer, called for the freedom of speech and the rights of journalists in Ukraine.
He represents a number of journalists in Ukraine who have been detained or harassed for doing nothing more than carrying out their professional duty.
Domansky presented examples of human rights violations, including against the staff of the «strana.ua » political news portal. Because the publication is under constant attack, the editor Igor Gujva has sought political asylum in Vienna. His correspondent in Kyiv, Kirili Malyshev is constantly harassed by the authorities.
Domansky also presented facts concerning the harassment of Danila Mokryk of the First TV Channel, and threats against his life, as a result of his efforts to fight corruption.
Both of these journalists are loyal to the current Ukrainian system, but for political opponents of the government, the situation is more troubling.
Domansky also appealed for the release of Kirill Vyshinsky, who has been held in pre-trial detention since his arrest in Kyiv by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) since May. Vyshinsky is the bureau chief of RIA Novosti Ukraine, and is being held on charges of high treason pending further investigation.
The SBU accuses RIA Novosti Ukraine of participating in a “hybrid information war” waged by Russia against Ukraine. A trial date for 28th December has been set.
This case is controversial, because the accusations against Vyshinsky concern articles written by other journalists and with a range of different opinions, but published by him in 2014.
His detention has been criticised by the OSCE’s representative on freedom of the media, Harlem Desir, who has called on the Ukrainian authorities to “refrain from imposing unnecessary limitations on the work of foreign journalists, which affects the free flow of information and freedom of the media.” He has also called on the Ukrainian authorities to expedite the investigation on Vyshinsky, and to release the journalist, saying: “Journalists have the right to express dissenting views and to report on issues that could be considered controversial, sensitive or offensive without any fear of retaliation.”
The U.S. State Department has said that Washington shares Ukraine’s concern about Russian propaganda but has stressed that Ukraine must ensure it abides by the law, including international human rights law.
The case raises important questions about the free expression of political views by journalists.