Top independent rights experts on Wednesday citing United Nations data said seven journalists had been killed in Ukraine while many had been facing unprecedented danger and even targeted while performing their work.
The alert from UN-appointed independent rights experts, including the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, cited “numerous reports” that journalists have been “targeted”.
As gathered, the report, cited by the experts, stated that journalists have been tortured, kidnapped, attacked and killed, or refused safe passage from cities and regions under siege.
Latest UN data shows that seven journalists have been confirmed killed in Ukraine since the Russian invasion on February 24; the last time so many media professionals lost their lives in Ukraine was in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea.
In a statement, the rights experts said Russia’s war against Ukraine had been made easier by the “silencing of critical voices…over a prolonged period’’.
They pointed to the blocking of social media platforms and news websites in Russia, and the disruption of foreign media services.
Moscow’s “massive labelling” of independent media as “foreign agents” according to experts is a source of concern.
The experts further said, “We deplore the systematic crackdown on political opponents, independent journalists and the media, human rights activists, protesters and many others opposing the Russian government’s actions.
All these measures amount to the creation of a state monopoly on information in blatant violation of Russia’s international obligations”.
After condemning Russia’s alleged use of “propaganda for war” against Ukraine, the rights experts maintained that disinformation is also being spread about Ukraine in Russian State-owned media.
They also rejected the European Union’s recent decision to ban two Russian media companies as “disproportionate”, adding that this move had been used “as a pretext…for (the) additional closure of independent media outlets” in Russia.
“Promoting access to diverse and verifiable information, including ensuring access to free, independent and pluralistic media, is a more effective response to disinformation”, the experts said.
They added, “We call on the Russian government to fully implement its international human rights obligations, including by respecting, promoting and protecting the freedom to seek, receive and impart information regardless of frontiers, and by ensuring a safe working environment for independent media, journalists and civil society actors”.