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‘Only widens gap’: Outrage as 20+ Russian journalists barred from entering Ukraine

Published time: April 12, 2014 16:34

Reuters / Gleb Garanich

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Over 20 Russia journalists have been denied access to Ukraine in recent weeks on the grounds that they do not have sufficient funds to enter, according to Ukrainian authorities. The move has caused outrage from both the CPJ and Moscow.

“Democratic governments have no business barring journalists from working based on nationality,” nonprofit press freedom organization the Committee to Protect Journalists said. “Restricting media access only increases suspicion and misunderstanding,”

One journalist shared his experiences with RT. “I spent nearly seven hours in a room they called either a hotel or a lounge. It was a small, very hot stuffy room with nothing but a bed and a table there. There are no people there, they just lock you in and leave,” Maksim Dodonov, a correspondent with Russian television channel Zvezda, told RT after being stopped at the border.

Crews from a dozen Russian news outlets have been turned away, including from Russian business daily Kommersant, a RIA Novosti correspondent, reporters from Forbes Russia, and RT’s video news agency Ruptly.

One of the Forbes journalists was attempting to write a business news report.

“We showed our press cards, but that only made things worse,”
said Pavel Sedakov, a journalist from Forbes Russia.

“They told us we’re being denied entry for three years. They interrogated us for quite a long time and then filmed all the equipment we had with us.”

The CPJ expressed concern over Russian journalists being denied entry to the country.

“We call on Ukrainian authorities to ensure that all journalists, foreign and domestic, are able to report freely and without obstruction on the unfolding events in Ukraine,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said in a statement published on the CPJ website.

Moscow has slammed the apparent attack on press freedom in the country and attacked double standards employed over reporting in the country.

While OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic called on authorities to put a stop to violent attacks on journalists in eastern Ukraine, the Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement Thursday requesting that she avoid double standards and biased approaches.

“The emphases are often put in the anti-Russian mood,” the ministry stated. “Dunja Mijatovic focuses attention on the developments that took place around the buildings of television companies in Kharkov, Donetsk and Lugansk on April 7. But she says nothing about the fact that the actions of the protesters were triggered by the limitations of their right to receive information after the closure of Russian television channels.”

On March 25 several Ukrainian providers stopped broadcasting four main Russian TV channels in a move the Russian Foreign Ministry calls a violation of international obligations and an attack on media freedom.

The Russian Foreign Ministry's Commissioner for Human Rights, told RIA Novosti at the time that Kiev's court decision to ban Russian TV content violated “every right to watch television and have access to media in Russian.”

Other non-governmental organizations were quick to come forward.

“Since Crimea’s incorporation into Russia, several Russian media have reported cases of their journalists being turned back at the Ukrainian border,” Reporters Without Borders said in a statement released Thursday.

“When Kommersant reporter Andrey Kolesnikov and photographer Dmitry Azarov tried to visit Kharkov on April 8 to cover the events there, border guards denied them entry on the official grounds that they did not have enough money on them.”

The nonprofit organization added that since December foreign nationals have been obliged to prove that they have access to a minimum amount of funds. Kommersant insisted that Kolesnikov was carrying more than the minimum.

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