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BBG, RFE/RL Condemn Journalist Beatings in Ukraine

Ukrainian RFE/RL Journalists Describe Beatings
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VIDEO: Ukrainian RFE/RL Journalists Describe Beatings

Broadcasting Board of Governors' (BBG) Chairman Jeff Shell and RFE/RL President and CEO Kevin Klose expressed outrage at the bloody attacks by police on dozens of journalists in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, including RFE/RL Ukrainian Service reporter Dmytro Barkar and cameraman Ihor Iskhakov. The U.S. international media leaders demanded that Ukrainian authorities immediately investigate the incident.

"We condemn in the strongest terms the violent attacks on journalists of RFE/RL and other media in Ukraine," said Shell, chair of the agency that oversees all U.S. civilian international broadcasting. "Attacking journalists under any circumstances is unacceptable. This was an egregious and shocking suppression of free press that left our reporters badly injured and in need of emergency medical care. There needs to be a prompt and thorough investigation."

Klose added, "A free society does not beat professional journalists while they are performing their duties. I find these actions by Ukrainian law enforcement officials contemptible. Those involved in the beatings, as well as any supervisors found to have ordered such behavior, must be held accountable for their actions."

Barkar and Iskhakov were in downtown Kyiv providing RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, known locally as Radio Svoboda, with live video coverage of the violent protests on January 20 when they were attacked by members of the elite Berkut police force. The two were separated and held for five hours without access to a phone or legal aid after being beaten and struck on the head and body with batons. Both reject police accusations that they were involved in the violence or provoked police in any way, and this is confirmed by the video footage they were obtaining for Svoboda's live online broadcast.

According to the Kyiv-based Institute of Mass Information (IMI), 35 journalists were injured while covering the violence on January 19-20. A January 20 Reporters Without Borders statement says many were injured by stun grenades, rubber bullets or other non-lethal projectiles. Fourteen of them said they were deliberately targeted by the security forces.

RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service has been providing livestreamed video coverage and comprehensive reporting of the Euromaidan protests since they broke out in late November 2013, following the Ukrainian government's decision to back away from an Association Agreement with the European Union.