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Why journalists must respect Ukraine’s laws and sovereignty — Portnikov

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Why journalists must respect Ukraine’s laws and sovereignty — Portnikov
Article by: Vitaliy Portnikov
Translated by: Anna Mostovych
Edited by: A. N.

Journalists must abide by the laws of Ukraine and enter occupied Donbas and Crimea only through Ukrainian checkpoints.

“We will offend the international news corporations; they will have a poor opinion of us,” is one of the main arguments offered by the critics of the publication of the lists of journalists who have been accredited by the “DNR” and “LNR” terrorists for work in Russian-occupied territories.

I hasten to reassure those who are worried about our reputation and international image. The way they have treated us, they will continue to treat us. Journalism has its own standards. How the situation in zones of conflict is covered is not determined by grievances but on what is really happening.

And if we believe that an “insult” to some journalist– even the most authoritative one — will prevent him from telling the truth, we are very mistaken.

Because when it comes to high-profile topics, basic competition exists. If one person does not tell the truth, another one surely will. The one who is not insulted.

But journalism is also people. And there are different people. It doesn’t require a genius to adapt standards to individual ideas about good and evil. Ukrainians simply have not yet become used to it.

Israelis have been faced with such “standards” from the first day of the existence of their state. A classic example is a news story from the Gaza strip — one that everyone has undoubtedly seen on the TV screen. Terrorists are firing rockets on some peaceful Israeli town. The Israeli air force strikes the missile system, which , as usual, is installed on the roof of a house. A child dies.

Immediately reporters accredited by the terrorists’ ministry of information arrive. The news report appears on the screens — a tiny body, outraged people, inconsolable mother. The anchor quickly babbles that the destruction of the missile installation was preceded by the shelling of the Israeli town.

But why even discuss it. There is not much to say. The rocket hit a non-residential building. Nobody had died. Some Jewish grandmother had suffered a heart attack? Well here the Russian (German, French) viewer has a chance to laugh nobly through clenched teeth. Well she deserved it, the old Jewish woman. But the baby died!

For greater objectivity, two experts are invited to the broadcast — Israeli and Palestinian. The Israeli one says something about the need for peaceful resolution of the problems and that his country will not let attacks on its territory go unpunished.

The Palestinian answers that his people have been deprived of land and state and that on top of everything a child has been killed. So why be surprised that radical attitudes are intensifying? What do you think, which side does the audience sympathize with? And this is happening practically every day on the broadcast channels of practically every major news corporation of the world.

But I would like to inform you that if the Israelis had been afraid of offending their colleagues, Israel would have disappeared from the political map a long time ago. And the news corporations would be presenting fascinating programs on the “New Holocaust” in the section on “Fascinating History.” And the viewers would be weeping in front of their TV sets — though perhaps not all of them.

If we want Ukraine to end up in the same category, we can continue to be afraid of offending the esteemed journalists. Or we can behave as a state that respects itself — help the journalists do their work but demand from them a strict compliance with the laws of Ukraine. The rules would be simple.

  • Entry to the occupied territories of the Donbas and Crimea is possible only through Ukrainian checkpoints.
  • Professional activity in the occupied territories requires accreditation by Ukrainian agencies.
  • After receiving this accreditation, the foreign citizen has the right to take formal steps to ensure work in the Donbas or Crimea (there is no question about Ukrainian journalists because the state is not responsible for their security in the occupied territories).
  • Return from the occupied territories can be only to Ukrainian territory.

Individuals who violate these rules — in other words, the ones who enter occupied territories from parts of the border with Russia not under Ukrainian control and who are accredited by the agencies of the occupiers without receiving Ukrainian accreditation should be denied the right to  pursue professional activity in Ukraine and the right to enter our country for a period of 5 to 10 years.

Let the international corporations send other journalists — those who respect our statehood. And it is for this very reason that it becomes necessary to analyze the accreditation lists.

I find the calls to review what the journalists wrote and said absolutely insane. Excuse me, but we live in a free world and we will not force anyone to shut up –neither our people nor the foreigners. However, respect for the law, for Ukraine’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity is the one thing we can demand.

Translated by: Anna Mostovych
Edited by: A. N.
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