Two international rights organizations have criticized Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko for signing a decree that banned 41 foreign journalists and bloggers from entry into Ukraine for one year.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Europe issued a statement Thursday calling the ban “a severe threat to the rights of journalists to freely collect information.”
OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic said governments have a “legitimate right to fight terrorism and to protect their national security and their citizens,” but that “introducing over-broad restrictions that curb free movement of journalists is not the way to ensure security.”
She called on President Poroshenko “to amend his decree and exclude journalists from it,” adding that Ukrainian authorities “should facilitate the work of journalists and abstain from creating administrative obstacles to the entry.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemned the decree in a statement issued Wednesday. CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said that while the government “may not like or agree with the coverage, labeling journalists a potential threat to national security is not an appropriate response.”
She added that the decree “undermines Ukraine’s interests by blocking vital news and information that informs the global public about the country’s political crisis.”
Reversal on BBC journalists ban
While three Moscow-based journalists with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) – correspondent Steve Rosenberg, producer Emma Wells, and cameraman Anton Chicherov – were among the banned journalists, Poroshenko said Thursday he had instructed the country’s National Security and Defense Council to take them off the list.
“Freedom of the press is an absolute value for me,” Poroshenko said at a meeting with newly-appointed British Ambassador to Ukraine Judith Gough.
The entry ban is part of a decree signed by Poroshenko Wednesday. It imposes sanctions on 388 companies and individuals deemed to represent an “actual or potential threat to the national interests, national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
The 34 journalists and seven bloggers originally included on the list come from Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, and Britain. All but Israel are OSCE participating states.
Before the Ukrainian president ordered the BBC journalists removed from the sanctions list, BBC foreign editor Andrew Roy issued a statement calling the ban “a shameful attack on media freedom.”
Roy described the sanctions as “completely inappropriate and inexplicable measures to take against BBC journalists who are reporting the situation in Ukraine impartially and objectively.”