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Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Ukrainian authorities’ actions

May 24, 2014, 4:35 UTC+3 NEW YORK

“If Ukrainian authorities are looking to build a democratic state, they must stop barring the press from covering public events in the country, especially the presidential vote,” CPJ said

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NEW YORK, May 24 /ITAR-TASS/. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an American nonprofit organization, has condemned the actions of Ukraine’s authorities who have prevented representatives of Russian mass media from entering the country.

“Several Russian journalists were barred from entering Ukraine this past week, ahead of Sunday's presidential vote, according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the move and calls on Ukrainian authorities to allow all journalists to carry out their job without harassment,” the CPJ said in a statement on its website on Friday.

“If Ukrainian authorities are looking to build a democratic state, they must stop barring the press from covering public events in the country, especially the presidential vote,” CPJ's Europe and Central Asia program researcher Muzaffar Suleymanov said.

“Openness and transparency are vital for democracy. We urge Ukraine to grant entry to all journalists, no matter their nationality or affiliation, or their newsroom's editorial line,” he said.

The CPJ also expressed concern over the detention by the Ukrainian authorities of Russian journalists working for the LifeNews TV channel, Oleg Sidyakin and Marat Saychenko.

Sidyakin and Saychenko were detained by Ukrainian law enforcers near the city of Kramatorsk in the Donetsk Region in eastern Ukraine on May 18. Victoria Siumar, a deputy head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, accused the LifeNews journalists of being “members of terrorist groups”.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Monday that Moscow demands an immediate release of Sidyakin and Saychenko.

“CPJ is concerned about the ongoing detention of Oleg Sidyakin and Marat Saychenko and calls on Ukraine to ensure and enforce rule of law in their case,” the CPJ’s statement said. “We also call on the authorities to stop equating conflict reporting with terrorism.”

Earlier this week, another international human rights organization, Human Rights Watch (HRW), demanded an immediate release of the LifeNews journalists.

In a statement, the HRW stressed that “Ukrainian authorities should immediately make public on what legal basis these journalists are being held, make sure that they have the full protection of the law, and give them access to their lawyers and consular officers.”

The HRW also said that “Ukraine should stop arbitrarily denying journalists from Russian news outlets, including Russian state media, access to the country”.

Instability embraced Ukraine after the country saw a coup in February. New people were brought to power amid riots as security concerns caused President Viktor Yanukovich to leave the country the same month. The coup-imposed leaders set early presidential elections for May 25.

Massive protests against the new Ukrainian authorities erupted in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking southeastern territories after the secession of the Crimean Peninsula, which declared independence on March 11 and joined Russia on March 18 following a referendum.

Demonstrators in southeastern regions, who have been demanding the country’s federalization, seized some government buildings. Kiev has been conducting what it has dubbed “an antiterrorism operation” against pro-federalization activists. Russia, which does not recognize the new Kiev authorities, has said the operation is punitive.

The eastern Ukrainian Donetsk and Lugansk regions held referendums on May 11, in which most voters supported independence from Ukraine.

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