The alert from UN-appointed independent rights experts, including the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, cited “numerous reports” that journalists have been “attacked, tortured, kidnapped, assaulted and killed, or denied safe passage” from controlled cities and regions. siege”.
The latest UN data indicates that seven journalists have been confirmed dead 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.
Sound of media silence
Russia’s war against Ukraine has been facilitated by the “silencing of critical voices…for an extended period of time,” the rights experts argued, pointing to the blocking of social media platforms and online news websites. Russia, and the disruption of the foreign media. services.
Equally troubling was themass labeling” of independent media as “foreign agents”, the experts said, before denouncing new Russian legislation that threatens journalists with 15-year prison sentences “for spreading ‘false’ information about the war in Ukraine”, questioning the so-called special military operation in Ukraine, “or even mentioning the word ‘war’”.
They added: “We deplore the systematic repression about political opponents, independent journalists and media outlets, human rights activists, protesters and many others who oppose the actions of the Russian government. All these measures amount to the creation of a state monopoly on information in flagrant violation of Russia’s international obligations.”
After condemning Russia’s alleged use of “war propaganda” against Ukraine, human rights experts argued that Disinformation about Ukraine was also being spread in Russian state media..
EU sanctions ‘disproportionate’
But rejected the European Union’s recent decision to ban two Russian media companies as “disproportionate”, adding that this measure had been used “as a pretext… for (the) further closure of independent media” in Russia.
“Promoting access to diverse and verifiable information, including guaranteeing access to free, independent and pluralistic media, is a more effective response to disinformation,” they said.
“We call on the Russian government to fully implement its international human rights obligations.including respecting, promoting and protecting the freedom to seek, receive and impart information regardless of borders, and guaranteeing a safe working environment for independent media, journalists and civil society actors”.
Cyber attack concerns
Inside Ukraine, rights experts also warned that the possibility of Cyber attacks against Ukrainian media and Internet infrastructure by Russian forces were of great concern.in a joint statement with the African Commission on Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Europe.
During an armed conflict, journalists must be treated as civilians and any attempt on their life constitutes a war crime, rights experts insisted, adding that states have a “duty and obligation” to respect international humanitarian law.
independent point of view
Irene Khan, UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression, is a UN-appointed independent member of the Special Procedures section of the UN Human Rights Council.
Special Procedures is the general name for the Council’s independent investigative and monitoring mechanisms that address specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.
The experts work on a voluntary basis as independent experts or special rapporteurs; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work.