VIENNA – OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović condemned the intimidation of independent journalists in Crimea following the detention on March 13 of Natalya Kokorina, a journalist and editor with the news portal Crimean Center for Investigative Journalism.
“This detention is a reminder of the ongoing practice of the de facto authorities in Crimea to intimidate and persecute independent media representatives for their work,” Ms. Mijatović said.
According to reports, Ms. Kokorina was detained by Federal Security Service agents who were searching her parents’ apartment in Symferopol. Ms. Kokorina was not allowed legal help during the search and detention, nor given reasons for these restrictive measures.
“I call on the de facto authorities in Crimea to immediately release Kokorina,” Ms. Mijatović said.
FSB agents also searched the apartment of the parents of Anna Andriyevskaya, the former editor of the news portal. The search was reportedly conducted in relation to one of Ms. Andriyevskaya’s articles published by the news portal. Her father’s computer was seized.
“The repression of free media and independent voices we witness in Crimea is nothing short of a fundamental violation of basic human rights,” Ms. Mijatović said.
On March 5, the representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe had said that the media freedom situation in Crimea has continued to deteriorate.
“The continuous dismantling of free media in Crimea and the crackdown on independent and critical voices is deeply disturbing and worrying,” Ms. Mijatović said. “Truth is the first casualty in times of crisis and this certainly applies for Crimea. I call on those responsible to stop media censorship and to ensure journalists’ safety,” she stated.
Ms. Mijatović had visited Simferopol on March 5, 2014, and met with media associations and local journalists to discuss the safety situation for members of the media in Crimea. At that time, she expressed deep concern about the intimidation by self-defense forces and local militia of independent journalists, media outlets and media NGOs.
The OSCE representative has repeatedly spoken out on the media freedom situation in Crimea the past 12 months, noting that:
• All Ukrainian television channels have been switched off and replaced with channels originating from the Russian Federation.
• Journalists from at least 13 independent media outlets, freelance journalists and bloggers have been threatened, assaulted, physically attacked, banned from entry, interrogated and kidnapped; their equipment confiscated or damaged.
• The premises of at least six media outlets and media NGOs have been raided; in some cases their equipment was seized.
• Crimean Tatar media have been under extensive censorship, and also subject to raids and detention of staff.
The OSCE representative on freedom of the media observes media developments in all 57 OSCE participating states. She provides early warning on violations of freedom of expression and media freedom and promotes full compliance with OSCE media freedom commitments.