Journalists stripped of accreditation for reporting from Kherson demand it back

Journalists and media organizations are demanding that the Ukrainian authorities reinstate the accreditation of Ukrainian and foreign journalists who were covering the events in Kherson immediately after it was liberated. They are also asking for issues with the communications departments of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense to be sorted out.

Source: statements by media workers; Institute of Mass Information

Details: On November 11, the day of Kherson’s liberation, Operational Command Pivden (South) reported that journalists’ access to the settlements liberated in November 2022 had been temporarily restricted.

On November 13, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine canceled the work permits of at least six journalists working with film crews because they had allegedly violated the rules on operating in combat areas. These included journalists from both foreign outlets (CNN and Sky News) and Ukrainian ones (Ukrainska Pravda and Hromadske).

On November 14, a number of organizations and media outlets wrote to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi and Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov regarding this matter.

Quote: “We, Ukrainian and foreign journalists and media organizations, demand immediate action to resolve the conflict situation that has been provoked by the inefficiency and lack of professionalism of the Defense Ministry’s communication departments, particularly the Joint Coordinating Press Center of the Southern Defense Forces.

Reports by Ukrainian and foreign journalists from liberated Kherson have made a huge contribution to our victory. The whole world has seen the images captured by our colleagues from CNN, Sky News, and other leading foreign and Ukrainian media outlets. These images have shown the joy with which the people of Kherson are meeting the Ukrainian army, disproving the lies of Russian propaganda. Their work is also a crucial documentation of Ukrainian history, which is being made right now.

The communication departments of the Ministry of Defence, being unable to build a mechanism for the admission of journalists, decided to just issue a blanket ban on all journalists, citing the danger of being in the newly liberated city.”

Details: The statement points out that professional journalists who have received official accreditation from the Defense Ministry have the relevant skills, have gone through numerous training courses and hold international security certificates, and they all have extensive experience of working at the front line.

“The Ukrainian and foreign journalists who entered Kherson without meeting all the requirements of the Joint Coordinating Press Center of the Southern Defense Forces have been stripped of their accreditation and, from today, will no longer be able to cover events at the front and in the frontline area; the foreign correspondents may not be able to work in Ukraine at all,” the signatories pointed out.

In their opinion, “failure to understand the specific nature of the work of war correspondents, and an unwillingness to draw up equal and transparent rules, have led to the creation of information tension and a communication crisis.”

“Attempting to forbid everything not only does not work; it is harmful to our country. Those who seek simple solutions create complex problems,” the media professionals stressed.

Their demands are:

  • Immediately reinstate the accreditation of the Ukrainian and foreign journalists who covered the events in Kherson and were stripped of their accreditation because of that;

  • Conduct an internal investigation into the unprofessional work of the Operational Command Pivden (South) communications department and the communications sector of the Defense Ministry in general, and take the relevant personnel decisions;

  • Draw up equal and transparent rules regarding the work and admission of journalists and abandon the selective approach;

  • Stop aggressively attacking media professionals and start cooperating with them instead. The Defense Ministry must staff their communications departments with professionals who understand the specifics of how journalists work and are capable of building high-quality communication;

  • Get rid of the unnecessary and inefficient bureaucracy, particularly the unnecessary documents and consents, introduced by the Joint Coordinating Press Center of the Southern Defense Forces. Journalists already have accreditation from the Defense Ministry, which is an official work permit. Additional documents and permits that are applied selectively and unprofessionally make it more difficult for journalists to work and negatively affect the coverage of key events in Ukraine for Ukrainian and international audiences.

  • Stop interfering with journalists’ work for no reason and treat them with respect by understanding their needs and their mission. The world is learning about the war and empathizing with Ukraine in part because of the work of our Ukrainian and foreign colleagues.

  • Make every effort to ensure that professional media can do their work efficiently and freely.

The statement was signed by Mediarukh, the ZMINA Human Rights Center, and Texty.org.ua, among others.

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