Harassment, intimidation and attacks on independent journalists, including those of RFE/RL and the Voice of America, have spiked in the wake of mass protests in Kyiv, Ukraine.
RFE/RL reports a smear campaign targeting veteran journalist Vitaliy Portnikov, intended to discredit him and undermine the pro-democracy Euromaidan movement. Portnikov's Kyiv apartment was picketed on January 9 by a crowd of approximately 50 people with threatening posters and Ukrainian flags who accused him of "immoral behavior."
VOA Ukrainian Service TV reporter Ruslan Deynychenko has faced repeated attempts at intimidation following his recent coverage of the Automaidan motorcade protest aimed at President Viktor Yanukovych’s residence outside of Kyiv in late December. State Auto Inspection officials in the city where his vehicle is registered have visited Deynychenko's parents and in-laws numerous times, asking them to sign papers about alleged traffic violations which can lead to a six-month suspension of his driver’s license.
"There is clearly an orchestrated effort to discredit independent, professional journalists, reminiscent of the most reprehensible tactics of Soviet times," said Kevin Klose, RFE/RL President and CEO.
Portnikov is an award-winning free-lance journalist and prominent public speaker who has been a regular contributor to RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service since 1991. He is a member of the public committee of Euromaidan, the organizing body of pro-EU demonstrations that erupted after Yanukovych rejected an agreement on closer ties with Europe in November.
“The threats to our journalists are among numerous acts of violence and intimidation perpetrated against independent voices over the last several weeks that Ukrainian authorities should denounce and prosecute consistent with President Yanukovych's New Year's pledge
to move forward toward mutual understanding and national consolidation," said David Ensor, VOA Director.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office of the Representative for Freedom of the Media reported
on December 2 that more than 40 journalists were physically assaulted and injured while covering the public protests in Kyiv. The most serious attack to date occurred on December 25, when Ukrainian journalist Tetyana Chornovol, who has investigated high-level corruption, was severely beaten
by unknown men.