PACE calls on Russia to release Sentsov and other Kremlin hostages

Imprisoned Ukainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov is one of those the resolution calls to release. Photo: Anton Naumlyuk

Imprisoned Ukainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov is one of those the resolution calls to release. Photo: Anton Naumlyuk 

Crimea

Article by: Olena Makarenko

On 24 January 2017, he Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted  resolution #2141, which calls to protect Ukrainian journalists from the aggression of the Russian Federation. It is written by the Ukrainian MP the head of the permanent delegation to PACE Volodymyr Ariev and called “Attacks on journalists and freedom of the media in Europe.”

According to Yevropeiska Pravda, 110 MPs voted in support, 15 against and 9 abstained.

Here are the key points of the resolution titled “Attacks against journalists and media freedom in Europe” which are related to journalists and activists in Ukraine:

  • to drop its criminal charges for “separatism” and related offenses against the Ukrainian journalists Hanna Andriyevska, Nataliya Kokorina, and Mykola Semena for their reports about the illegal occupation and annexation of the Crimean Peninsula by the Russian Federation;
  • to release Roman Sushchenko, a correspondent of the Ukrainian national information agency Ukrinform who has been detained in Moscow on charges of “espionage”;
  • to exert its influence over the belligerent separatist military forces in eastern Ukraine in order to ensure that journalists can report safely from those areas in accordance with Resolution 1438 (2005) on freedom of the press and the working conditions of journalists in conflict zones;
  • to transfer the Ukrainian film producer Oleg Sentsov sentenced in Russia to the competent law-enforcement authorities of Ukraine without further delay.

The resolution also appealed against the Russian authorities’ crackdown on the broadcaster ATR and other Crimean-Tatar media.

“Concerned by the general situation of media freedom in the Crimean Peninsula occupied by Russia, the Assembly calls on the Russian authorities to respect freedom of expression and information through the media also in areas which are de facto controlled by them outside the territory of Russia in violation of Resolution A/RES/68/262 of the United Nations General Assembly,” says he text of the resolution.

Also the resolution called on Ukraine to investigate the case of murder of Ukrainian-Belarusian journalist Pavlo Sheremet.

Let’s take a closer look at those whom Russia considers as extremists and terrorists.

Ukraine's head of the permanent delegation to PACE Volodymyr Ariev is an author of the resolution. Photo: Iryna Gerashchenko

Ukraine’s head of the permanent delegation to PACE Volodymyr Ariev is an author of the resolution. Photo: Iryna Gerashchenko

Constant pressure against Crimeans

Oleg Sentsov is a Crimea-born film director, writer and activist. He was an active participant of the Euromaidan revolution. Just before the occupation of Crimea by the Russian Federation he organized meetings to support unity of Ukraine in Simferopol, the capital of Crimea.

In May 2014 Russian law enforcements detained Sentsov. He was accused in preparing a terrorist attack.

Together with Sentsov, Oleksandr Kolchenko, Gennadiy Afanasiev (released in summer 2016) and Oleksiy Chyrniy were also accused of “terrorism” after they opposed the Russian occupation of their native Crimea.

On 25 August 2015, in Russian Rostov-On-Don court Sentsov was sentenced to 20 years in a penal colony.

Read also: Film about imprisoned Ukrainian filmmaker Sentsov to be shown at Berlinale

Roman Sushchenko. Photo: bbc.com

Roman Suschenko is a journalist of the informational agency Ukrinform, where he has worked for 14 years, the last six of which he spent as a correspondent in Paris. On 30 September 2016 he was detained in Moscow by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and accused of spying. According to the preliminary decision of the Moscow Court, Suschenko had to stay behind bars until 30 January 2016. However, on 25 January his arrest was prolonged to 30 April 2016.

Mykola Semena. Photo:detector.media

Mykola Semena is a Honored Journalist of Ukraine. Since 90s he used to work in Crimea, where he was a special correspondent of the Russian newspaper Izvestiya, once an independent outlet. After personnel changes in Izvestiya, he switched to working in the Ukrainian nationwide newspaper Den, where throughout 20 years he was an example for many Crimean journalists.

Semena also is the author of two books. One of them is a biography of the Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev.

In 2014, after Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, Semena became one of the few journalists who remained in the occupied peninsula. On 19 April 2016 FSB officers searched his house. So-called prosecutor of Crimea Natalia Poklonska accused him of writing an article calling to violate the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation. Criminal proceedings has been initiated against him, and in January Semena was presented with an indictment stipulating a mandatory 5 years in prison.

Russia included yet other Crimean journalists to its list of extremists and terrorists.

Hanna Andriyevska. Photo:prportal.com.ua

Hanna Andriyevska who used to write for the Center for Investigative Journalism had to leave Crimea. After writing an article about volunteers of the Crimea battalion which was fighting in the eastern Ukraine she was accused in extremism. According to the journalist, the servants of the Russian regime in the occupied peninsula were searching her parents’ house and also houses of her colleagues.

According to the Institute of Mass Information, 31 cases of violation of freedom of speech were recorded in Crimea in 2016. Crimean journalists felt pressure from FSB, Roskomnadzor [The Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Communications – Ed.] and so-called authorities of Crimea. However, it is noteworthy that because of the dangerous situation not all the journalists and other residents of Crimea would tell about searches and other kinds of pressure.

The Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović also condemned the continued deterioration of media freedom and safety of journalists in conflict-affected parts of Ukraine.

“Access to information, plurality of opinion and the safety of journalists continue to suffer in times of crisis,” Mijatović said. “As is the case in Crimea, the ongoing deterioration of free expression and free media in conflict-affected parts of Ukraine is deeply disturbing.”

Other provisions of the resolution

The PACE document also contains criticism and recommendations towards the authorities of Turkey, Hungary, Georgia, Poland, and Greece. Also one of the comments note almost absence of the freedom of speech in Belarus.

The resolution has been criticized by the representatives of Armenia because of the absence of critical remarks towards Azerbaijan on the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Following the discussion additional requirements and claims against Azerbaijan were added to the resolution.

Also some wording on the pressure on the media in Georgia was softened and wording regarding Poland was hardened.

Edited by: Alya Shandra

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  • Brent

    The 15 PACE delegates who voted against these fundamental rights, or their countries, should be named