Currently, 26 of our journalists are in Russian captivity, and we cannot find two of them — Liudmyla Yankina

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On April 9, the campaign “Safety of journalists and other media actors in Ukraine in the context of martial law” launched in Kyiv by the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine together with the Council of Europe project. Human Rights Centre ZMINA also gave a speech at the event.

This initiative seeks to unite representatives of the media and journalists, civil society, state authorities and international organisations to work together in the field of protecting journalists and supporting freedom of speech and media freedom in Ukraine.

Liudmyla Yankina, the Head of the Civil Society Protection Unit at the Human Rights Centre ZMINA, said that ZMINA has been documenting the persecution of civil society representatives, including journalists, since 2016, and that since the start of the full-scale invasion, challenges have increased tenfold. Yankina added that the organisation provides journalists with legal assistance, financial assistance helps with relocation within the country and abroad, etc.

The expert mentioned the case of the editorial office of the newspaper “Vorskla” from the Sumy region, when several journalists from this publication filled out an application for help while were in bomb shelters:

“They were almost the only journalists who remained in this settlement, because the towers did not work and the possibility of broadcasting was stopped due to shelling by the Russians. And when journalists leave, local residents find themselves in conditions of an informational collapse”.

Yankina is convinced that Russian frequencies are trying to break into Ukrainian space, where the increased shelling occurs, in order to spread propaganda and convince people that Ukraine does not need them.

“Journalists want, should and must stay in dangerous territories, because their work is important. And such journalists should be supported”, the human rights defender believes.

Liudmyla Yankina also adds that journalists are civilian hostages. After a journalist is illegally abducted in the occupied territory, Ukrainians in the controlled territory lose contact with them:

“And such a person is very difficult to find, because journalists are abducted and placed in unofficial places of detention. They are kept in improvised torture chambers. Currently, 26 of our journalists are in Russian captivity, and we cannot find two of them at all. These are Iryna Levchenko and Viktoriia Roshchyna”.

As Liudmyla Yankina sums up, it is important that the Council of Europe, in particular, seeks information from Russia about the places of detention of Ukrainian journalists.

You can find the video from the event here.