Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed a decree on Wednesday 16 September banning at least 38 international journalists and bloggers from Ukraine for one year. The decree, published on the presidential website, says those listed are banned for being “actual or potential threat to national interests, national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
Poroshenko said the people targeted were involved in Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and the current aggression in eastern Ukraine.
“This ban is a serious blow to media freedom,” Index senior advocacy officer Melody Patry said. “There is no explanation whatsoever on what press coverage constitutes an actual or potential threat to national security. We appreciate that the situation in eastern Ukraine is sensitive but preventing journalists from reporting from within the country is not the solution and it’s undermining freedom of information.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that the 34 journalists and seven bloggers named in the ban come from Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Kazakhstan, Latvia, North Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
The original list included three BBC media staff members – Moscow correspondent Steve Rosenberg, producer Emma Wells and cameraman Anton Chicherov – who were later removed from the ban list, media reported.
“We cannot accept that kind of censorship”, said Mogens Blicher Bjerregård, president of the European Federation of Journalists. Censorship is never the right answer, even to counter propaganda or to sanction journalists who allegedly crossed the Russian-Ukrainian border illegally. The ban is simply inappropriate. Peace and Development of our democracies need press freedom not banning journalists. We and the international society must firmly urge the Ukraine government to lift immediately the ban on named journalists.”
Over 380 people in total have been banned, including activists and Russian officials.
This measure was added to the Mapping Media Freedom platform, which monitors and map threats and violations to media freedom in Europe, including Ukraine and Russia.
The environment for media freedom in Ukraine has been deteriorating against the backdrop of the conflict in the eastern part of the country, making it one the the deadliest countries for journalists, with at least eight media workers killed since the beginning of 2014.
This statement was updated to reflect the later removal of three BBC journalists from the ban list.
Mapping Media Freedom