The undersigned journalists’ and civil society organisations, which are partner organisations of the Council of Europe’s Platform to Promote the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists, utterly condemn the threats to the lives and safety of journalists resulting from the Russian Federation’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and call for the protection of Ukrainian and international reporters covering the war.
The free flow of independent and accurate news and information is essential in conflict situations. Our organisations call for urgent and practical international assistance and support for the brave journalists in Ukraine seeking to provide the Ukrainian people and the global public with a timely and realistic picture of developments, as well as foreign journalists risking their lives reporting in and about Ukraine. Their work helps keep people safe and ensures that the international community can understand the full consequences of this invasion and its appalling impact on human lives.
The immediate physical safety of journalists on the ground – Ukrainian and foreign – is our primary concern amid the incessant escalation of hostilities. We emphasise that journalists are considered civilians under international humanitarian law and are not legitimate targets. The U.N. Security Council in 2015 adopted – by unanimous vote – Resolution 2222 affirming that states must respect and protect journalists as civilians. Resolution 2222 also confirms that media equipment and installations constitute civilian objects and shall not be the object of attack or reprisals.
The same resolution requires states to respect the professional independence and rights of journalists. The Council of Europe Platform partners condemn all efforts to restrict independent coverage of the Russian invasion and the ensuing hostilities, in particular within the Russian Federation itself. Journalists in the Russian Federation covering anti-war demonstrations have faced harassment and arbitrary detention. The Russian media regulator continues to threaten independent media, block their websites, and force the removal of articles for deviating from the official state line on the war. This is a completely unacceptable violation of the Russian public’s right to independent information. We also condemn the continued and widespread crackdown on independent media in Belarus, where 32 journalists and media actors remain behind bars, according to the Belarusian Association of Journalists.
The Council of Europe Platform, a Europe-wide monitoring and reporting mechanism aimed at countering all forms of attacks on journalists’ physical safety and protections in law, has grown into an important means of holding European states to account for serious violations. This role has now become all the more necessary, and we are committed to documenting all attacks on journalists and other efforts to restrict journalists’ ability to report on the war. The Platform partners have regularly expressed concern that the Russian Federation has declined to reply to alerts or engage with the work of the Platform.
This unprecedented attack requires a united effort to protect the rights and safety of journalists working in Ukraine. Urgent humanitarian assistance for journalists working in Ukraine is needed to ensure that they can continue doing their job safely and securely. This includes financial support to independent media outlets as well as necessary safety equipment and other forms of practical support. We call on Council of Europe member states to make available emergency financial support that can be distributed to journalists, journalists’ organisations and media outlets in Ukraine. At the same time, we ask all concerned governments as well as international NGOs to do everything they can to support journalists who will be forced to flee the country and set up reporting bases abroad.