201 cases of threats to the freedom of mass media in the world were reported in 2020; that includes a record-breaking number of cases, 52, which concerned physical attacks on the journalists as is stated in the annual report of the partner organizations to the Council of Europe.
According to the report, last year, 70 cases of harassment and intimidation were observed, as well as two deaths of journalists and mass media workers tied with their work.
In Poland, Turkey and Ukraine, a high number of harassment and intimidation of journalists is observed. The attacks on the journalists occurred as a result of coverage of public events, including protests and rallies.
The attacks on mass media workers became frequent during the election campaigns.
The majority of the reports on threats against journalists in 2020 aimed against the life, health, or physical integrity of the journalists from individuals and representatives and state bodies representatives. Arson or bomb attacks, bullets sent by post, legislation to keep detained journalists in prison were observed. The listed violations concern Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy, the Russian Federation, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine, and the UK.
In Ukraine, journalist of NewsOne TV channel Tetyana Syvokon was attacked by the owner of the shop during shooting a story about the sale of protective masks in Khmelnytsky region. Moreover, chief editor of Zaborona news Kateryna Serhatskova received threats of death and violence after the local journalist published her personal information on Facebook.
In Ukraine, the journalists became the targets of covert surveillance, phone tapping or interrogation. In one case, the judges tried to illegally get access to the phone of a journalist.
The partner organizations to the Council of Europe welcome the fact that the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine holds reinvestigation of the Heorhiy Honhadze case after the decision of the Cabinet of Ministers to fulfill the decision of the European Court in December 2020.
Besides, the journalist organizations urge the Ukrainian authorities to hold an exhaustive investigation of the murder of Vadym Komarov that, according to them, can become one more case of impunity. Cherkasy journalist Komarov was attacked and beaten in May 2019, after that he was 46 days in a coma and died.
Finally, in light of new evidence of the possible involvement of the Belarusian KGB in the murder of Pavlo Sheremet, the international journalist society insists that the Ukrainian authorities should hold a new investigation of the circumstances of his murder.
On February 2, Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree on sanctions against 112 Ukraine, NewsONE, and ZiK TV channels. By this decree, he enforced the decision of the National Security and Defense Council on sanctions on the cancellation of the broadcasting licenses of the TV channels belonging to Taras Kozak (112 Ukraine, NewsOne, ZIK). According to the decree that is eligible since the moment of signature, the TV channels faced sanctions that will be active for five years. These sanctions make broadcasting impossible.
On February 26, the journalists of TV channels illegally closed by President Volodymyr Zelensky united and created a new TV channel – Pershiy Nezalezhniy.
On the same day, Pershiy Nezalezhniy TV channel was disconnected from broadcasting an hour after its start under the pressure of the authorities and law enforcement agencies.
On April 24, residents of Ukraine were deprived of access to information on the YouTube channels of 112 Ukraine, Zik and NewsOne.