A rocket is buried in the ground in Bucha, Ukraine, Sunday, April 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
One year after Bucha, independent journalism remains vital in uncovering Russian atrocities


03 April 2023

No Comments

One year ago, as Russian forces retreated from the outskirts of Kyiv in the first days of April, the world was shocked by the emerging images and testimonies of the atrocities suffered by the local civilian population during the month-long occupation of the region.


In a few days, Bucha, the largest town in Kyiv’s immediate northwestern suburbs, became an international symbol of the war crimes committed as part of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Among the hundreds of civilian victims, Ukrainian journalists Roman Nezhyborets and Zoreslav Zamoysky were found dead, killed in conditions likely never to be fully determined.


While the world discovered the horrors of criminal warfare in a suburb of a European capital, Russian state-controlled media either ignored the evidence or sought to discredit it and those media reporting it.  


Independent media worked tirelessly and courageously, and often at great personal risk, to help expose the crimes and the extent of the brutality that Russian forces inflicted on Bucha and other parts of the country. Their work is a reminder of the indispensable role that journalism plays in times of war. Independent journalists serve as the world’s eyes and ears in war zones. Without them we are blind – and powerless against the forces of state propaganda.


In the case of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, journalists have documented not just military advances and defeats, but also the horrendous human cost of Putin’s illegal war – a truth that, after Bucha, no one can hide from. And while this day seems long off, the work of independent journalists may one day help the world hold those responsible for crimes committed in Ukraine to account. 


Russia’s cynical intent on masking the facts about Bucha was evidenced not only through its propaganda but also through its crackdown on any Russian journalists who dared to report independently on the events. They have faced criminal prosecution, with Russian courts handing out prison sentences for social media posts, accusing their authors of “discrediting the Russian Armed Forces” and producing “fake news”.


According to the International Press Institute (IPI)’s Ukraine War Press Freedom Tracker, seven journalists in Russia have been sentenced or prosecuted in relation to the atrocities in Bucha: Veronika Belotserkovskaya, Ilya Ber, Isabella Evloeva, Dmitry Kolezev, Ilya Krasilshchik, Alexey Shitik and Petr Verzilov. One year on, at least three more, Mikhail Afanasyev, Maria Ponomarenko and Sergey Mikhailov, are behind bars, because they dared to do their job as journalists and report about Russian war crimes in Ukraine, committing the punishable offense of authoring publications based on sources not approved by the Russian Ministry of Defense, which continues to refuse to call the war a war.


As the world remembers the uncovering of the massacres in Bucha one year later, we reinforce our solidarity with all journalists working to pierce the armour of propaganda and report the truth about Russia’s war and its cost to the Ukrainian people. We demand that the Russian authorities cease their attacks on those who still brave repression to provide the Russian public with independent information on the war in Ukraine. And we call on the international community to continue to support the work of independent media covering the war, and to hold all those responsible for attacks on journalists to account.

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19 Europe 
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • South East Europe  Media Organisation (SEEMO)
  • Justice for Journalists Foundation (JFJ)
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)

Read news by categories:

Related news


Croatia: Faktograf journalist Melita Vrsaljko physically assaulted twice in a week

The undersigned organisations express deep concerns about the physical attacks targeting Melita Vrsaljko, a journalist working for the Croatian fact-checking website Faktograf.hr.


Joint letter to Ursula von der Leyen calling for a strong press freedom mandate

ECPMF has joined 25 organisations to call on the European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen to ensure that media freedom, the protection of journalists, and EU citizens’ access to public interest journalism remain high political priorities.


“When all our reporting, all our drops, come together, they form an ocean” – Environmental and urban journalism in Turkey

Hazal Ocak is an investigative journalist from Turkey reporting on environmental and urban topics. By writing about environmental injustices, she attempts to amplify the “voice of many creatures such as trees and squirrels” on this planet.


France: Media freedom coalition condemns Vivendi’s disinformation campaign against Reporters Without Borders

The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) partners strongly condemn the cyber disinformation campaign against the press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Press release

Georgia: A crisis point for press freedom

Today, ECPMF publishes a report detailing the findings of its fact-finding mission to Tbilisi, Georgia, which paint a picture of independent media in the midst of an existential crisis.


Turkey: Freedom of the press and expression groups condemn broadcast regulator’s silencing of Açık Radyo

The undersigned freedom of the press and expression organizations condemn the decision by Turkey’s broadcast regulator to revoke the license of independent radio station Açık Radyo.