April 23, 2024

Press Freedom

OPC and 21 Organizations Call for an End to Russian War Crimes Against Journalists in Ukraine

We, the undersigned journalists, press freedom organizations, and unions, write this statement to denounce the war crimes committed by the Russian Federation against journalists in Ukraine and to call for immediate action to hold the perpetrators accountable.

Deliberately targeting journalists, shelling their facilities, and engaging in arbitrary detentions and torture clearly violate international humanitarian law and press freedom. We urge authorities to take decisive steps to address these grave violations and provide increased support for front-line reporters.

The Coalition For Women In Journalism and 21 organizations are alarmed at the continued targeting of media workers in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The recent missile attack in Pokrovsk is a clear example of Russian forces deliberately targeting journalists by employing a “double tap” strategy to kill rescue workers and media personnel responding to the initial shelling. While no journalists died in this attack, it is evident that the intention was to cause mass civilian and media casualties.

The continued deliberate shelling of journalists covering the war in Ukraine constitutes a flagrant international humanitarian law violation and a war crime under the Rome Statute and the 1949 Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War and UN Security Council Resolution 2222 on the protection of journalists and media workers in armed conflict.  Indiscriminate attacks, which fail to distinguish between military and civilian targets and affect journalists, are also prohibited under international humanitarian law. Despite these clear international standards, Russian forces continue to intentionally target journalists, aiming to intimidate the press and suppress truth.

The CFWIJ has documented the killing of at least five women journalists since the invasion began in February 2022. Russian forces have shelled and killed journalists Oksana Baulina, Oksana Haidar, Oleksandra Kuvshynova, Victoria Amelina, and Vira Hyrych. Photojournalist Anastasia Taylor-Lind and reporter Yuliya Kiriyenko were injured in missile attacks. Yevhenia Kytayiva and Anna Kudryavtseva were also targeted by Russian missiles but managed to get out unscathed.

According to CPJ, at least 17 journalists have been killed on the frontlines in Ukraine, including Brent Renaud, who was executed with a shot to the head.

It is not only through direct attacks on journalists’ lives that Russian forces seek to intimidate the press. They also employ detentions, enforced disappearances, and criminal prosecution as a tactic to silence media workers and their relatives. Journalists such as Iryna Levchenko, Iryna Danylovych, Iryna Dubchenko, Lutfiye Zudiyeva, and Viktoria Roshchina have been wrongfully detained. The father of Ukrainian journalist Svitlana Zalizetska was detained in retaliation for her work.

Protection of the press during war is paramount to ensure transparent and truthful coverage of events. The absence of such eradicates the ability of public and relevant international organizations to hold those in power accountable.

We welcome the charges ICC’s chief prosecutor Karim Khan issued against Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova for the abduction of Ukrainian children. We urge the ICC Prosecutor to take a similar approach towards the situation of journalists in Ukraine and investigate and charge those responsible for committing war crimes against journalists.

We call on:

ICC, Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan, to:

  • Charge Russian officials who have committed war crimes against journalists

  • Send out an arrest warrant for those charged

ICC:

  • Ensure a fair trial for the perpetrators

  • Ensure meaningful participation and support for the victims

International Centre for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression against Ukraine:

  • In coordination with the Joint Investigative Team and foreign partners to investigate all crimes against journalists reporting on the conflict

  • Collect, document, and analyze evidence in the Core International Crimes Evidence Database (CICED)

  • Ensure that documented evidence of crimes against journalists is available for any future special tribunal established to indict and prosecute those responsible.

ECHR:

  • Examine and decide on applications that relate to violations of the Convention allegedly committed prior to Russia’s withdrawal from the ECHR. Under Article 58 of the Convention, ECHR can examine alleged violations of the Convention committed by Russia up to that date.

OHCHR, Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to:

  •  Collaborate with the ICC, sharing information and coordinating efforts.

  •  Advocate for joint action among international bodies to hold perpetrators accountable.

OSCE, Chairman-in-Office, Bujar Osmani, to:

  • Engage in diplomatic efforts, issuing statements and conducting negotiations to address the targeting of journalists and media workers.

  • Raise concerns through bilateral and multilateral platforms to ensure accountability.

Council of Europe:

  • Continue to monitor compliance with human rights obligations, particularly regarding press freedom and the protection of journalists.

Signed

  • Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)

  • Women In Journalism Institute, Canada

  • Alliance for Journalists’ Freedom

  • Article 19 Europe

  • Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)

  • Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma

  • Danish PEN

  • Danish Union of Journalists

  • Defend Democracy

  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

  • Fair Vote UK

  • International Press Institute (IPI)

  • Journalists for Human Rights (JHR)

  • Justice for Journalists Foundation

  • Rory Peck Trust

  • ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association

  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)

  • Open Britain

  • Overseas Press Club of America

  • South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)

  • Women Photograph