Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is urging Ukrainian authorities to enforce legislation penalizing violence against journalists after a reporter was assaulted by officers in Kyiv last week while he was filming an anti-lockdown protest.
In a statement on May 7, the Paris-based media-freedom watchdog says the incident came amid "many other cases of threats and acts of aggression and intimidation” against journalists since a public-health emergency was declared in parts of Ukraine on March 20.
"It is unacceptable for the police to join in the wave of violence that Ukrainian journalists have suffered since the start of the public-health crisis," said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.
"This trend threatens the foundations of Ukrainian democracy and must be urgently reversed,” she added.
During reporter Bohdan Kutepov’s live coverage of an April 29 protest outside government headquarters in Kyiv for the online TV Hromadske, a policeman was heard telling him: "Either you take your camera or I break it."
Kutepov was filming the demonstrators from a nearby park, but the police ordered him to leave and then pushed him to the ground, damaging some of his equipment, RSF said, adding that the National Bureau of Investigation is investigating the incident as an "abuse of authority."
The investigation “must be conducted with complete transparency, and the law providing for specific sanctions in cases of obstruction of journalists and threats and violence against them must be applied in an exemplary fashion," Cavelier said.
According to RSF, another assault on the media took place on the evening of May 1, when freelancer Mykyta Knysh was physically attacked by a group of youths while covering respect for lockdown measures in the northeastern city of Kharkiv.
Ukraine is ranked 96th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.