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European Watchdog Criticizes Ukraine For Banning Russia's RIA Novosti

The Russian state-run RIA Novosti news agency's office in Kyiv (file photo)
The Russian state-run RIA Novosti news agency's office in Kyiv (file photo)

A European media watchdog has criticized Ukraine for putting Russian state news agency RIA Novosti on a sanctions list that bars the news outlet from operating in Ukraine.

Harlem Desir, the media freedom representative for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said late on May 25 that foreign media outlets and representatives "should not be included on sanctions lists."

“Freedom of expression and freedom of the media are fundamental commitments of the OSCE participating states. Any limitations imposed on these rights should be limited in scope, proportional, and provide for adequate safeguards against abuse,” Désir said in a statement.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko cited "national security" reasons for putting RIA Novosti Ukraine and its parent company, Rossia Segodnya, on the sanctions list on May 24. They are barred from operating in Ukraine for three years.

Russia accused Ukraine of "political censorship" of the media and called on the OSCE to censure the move.

Desir in his statement called on Ukraine to "respect and fulfill the OSCE commitments aimed at improving conditions under which journalists...practice their profession."

Desir noted that the OSCE has called out Ukraine previously for restricting media, once in September 2015 when Kyiv barred several dozen foreign journalists from entering the country, and another time in August 2014, when Ukraine's parliament approved restrictions on media in its sanctions law.

Ukraine also recently jailed an RIA Novosti reporter on charges of high treason for allegedly participating in "hybrid information warfare," in a case that drew angry criticism from Moscow and concern from Western governments and media watchdogs.

Ukraine has been locked in a conflict with Russia-backed separatists in the east of the country since 2014, the same year that Russia illegally annexed Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula.

More than 10,300 people have been killed in the conflict.

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