The situation in this country remains tense, and it is still alarming on city streets. A skillful and thoughtful performance of the press is one of the key factors for a positive course of events now. At the same time, it is more and more difficult for media people today to meet standards – they become the objects of assaults and threats almost every day. There is convincing evidence that law enforcers fired well-aimed shots at journalists during the Hrushevsky St. clashes, seriously wounding some of them. Hrushevsky Street recently saw the action “Don’t Shoot the Journalist!” Several dozen media people came right up to the line of security-force soldiers. They held placards reading “Journalists are no targets,” “We are citizens of the same country: don’t shoot,” “We are working, not fighting,” etc. Most of them wore helmets and protective gear. The aim of this action was to remind the law enforcers that journalists are outside the conflict and, like the policemen, are present on the spot of events in the line of their professional duty. In reply, the police switched on a loudspeaker which called on those present to abandon the “buffer zone.” We have asked some “battlefield journalists” whether it is possible to work and remain impartial in the conditions of increased responsibility.
“THIS IS THE FIRST TIME WE SEE SO MUCH AGGRESSION”
Oleksandr PROTSENKO, photo reporter, Comments.ua:
“We, photo reporters, are always at the ‘forward edge’ and encounter some difficulties on our way, but this is the first time we see this kind of attitude. Never before has Ukraine seen as many clashes between journalists and the police as in the past two months or so. Luckily, I personally did not suffer from this aggression – just, due to my ‘stupidity,’ I allowed the crowd to accidentally push me off the parapet. As a result, a dislocation and a plaster cast. But, in general, a lot of my colleagues were wounded, particularly, with grenade fragments. If a journalist comes right into a crowd in which grenades blow up, it is his own choice. In my view, it’s no use doing so. Nor is it worthwhile to stand just between the policemen and the protesters, for you can also take good snapshots if you stay a bit aside. I saw no overt aggression on the part of the protesters, but people often ask not to photograph their face. Sometime I also urge activists to wear a mask in order not to be ‘outed’ on the photos, for I know what consequences this can have. But the police are showing bitter hostility to photographers these days. As a rule, the people who are aware of behaving wrongly are the most aggressive. In spite of all emotions and dangers, photography still remains one of the most impartial journalistic instruments, for it shows reality without any warps.”
“WHEN YOU ARE BEING SHOT AT, IT IS DIFFICULT TO BE IMPARTIAL”
Svitlana BEREZIVSKA, correspondent, 1+1 TV channel:
“It is common knowledge today that journalism is a dangerous profession in Ukraine, no matter where you are – among doctors or among protesters. As a representative of social journalism, I came to see the action ‘Don’t Shoot the Journalist.’ Should the policemen not receive their wages, the promised housing, or social benefits in time, it is journalists who will stand up for them! It seems to me that most people on the other side of the barricades do not take this factor into account. Today, they are shooting in our direction and even deliberately aim their guns at journalists. Clearly, given this attitude, you have no desire at all to help them in the future. When you are being shot at, it is very difficult to drop emotions and be impartial. As a news reporter, I always try to spotlight two viewpoints. Undoubtedly, we can have an opinion of our own, but we often have to keep it undisclosed. The channel has given its staff special safety recommendations for the period of protests.
PHOTO CAMERAS LIKE THIS ARE ONLY FOR MAKING MASTERPIECES / Photo by Mykola TYMCHENKO, The Day
“I have seen no aggression at all on the part of the protesters – they are usually very amiable and wise people. I personally feel safer among the protesters than next to the law enforcers. My 1+1 colleague Natalka Pisnia was recently injured – a huge rubber bullet hit her. As a result, she had to go on sick leave for a long time. Natalka is a blonde, thin, and harmless girl… Today they spare neither women, nor the elderly, nor doctors, to say nothing of journalists.”
“OUR JOB IS TO RECORD HISTORY”
Yefrem LUKATSKY, photo correspondent:
“I have worked in many ‘hot spots’ (Afghanistan, Iraq, the Gaza Strip, Chechnya, Transnistria), and journalists could always work on both sides there. I could cross the front line several times a day. In Transnistria, I first mingled with the police and then went to the other side and spoke to insurgents. I was treated to cherries on one side and to wine on the other. And nobody stood in my way. What mostly worries me today is the fact that we are divided – journalists are not allowed to spotlight the work of the police. They also have problems: they burn, they are beaten, and they are pelted with stones. They are also human, but we are forbidden to tell about them. Journalists must be, like doctors, everywhere. We were told today: ‘We don’t need these ‘doctors’.’ This worries the most. Aggression against journalists comes not only from the police, but also from activists. I recently saw a journalist being grabbed very rudely and dragged by the scruff of the neck, like a dog, at Ukrainian House. It was very unpleasant to see this. As we were paying our last respects to the Maidan activist Mykhailo Zhyznevsky, a foreign journalist lifted his camera over his head, only to hear a security guard shout: ‘No photography from above, or else I’ll break your legs!’ The cameraman did not even understand Ukrainian… Incidentally, when Klitschko came to Hrushevsky Street to talk to the police, he also drove the press away. Maybe, he should have also driven away the doctors? He does not know that he has no right to do so – a politician must not even touch the press! Journalist is a particular profession. His job is to record history.
“It is very difficult for me now to drop emotions because I was born and raised in Kyiv and know every street here – it is my native city. Whenever I work abroad, I always remain unbiased, but I cannot be totally neutral these days, and I take things too close to heart.”
“IT IS INADMISSIBLE TO SHOW CATS AND PANDAS DURING A REVOLUTION”
Yurii MAKAROV, TV journalist:
“There is a revolution going on, and television must not show cats and pandas at a moment when the country’s destiny is at stake and real blood is being shed. However, far from all the channels display the same professional level. For example, what is now happening to Inter is absolute decline and fall. It is classical propaganda which has nothing to do with journalism. Viewers prefer public broadcasters. But these channels are in an unequal competitive situation. Hromadske TV is open to Internet audiences only. About 40,000 viewers constantly watch this most popular web channel. It is a drop in the ocean for a country like ours. Yet these channels are now doing all that an honest journalist should do in these extraordinary conditions. How well they are doing this is a different question. In particular, as far as Hromadske TV is concerned, you can easily notice the absence of a producer’s hand – this is my professional opinion. This is especially clear when a program hosts a difficult interlocutor, such as Alexei Venediktov.
“The work of journalists is difficult because it is risky. It is widely rumored now that a certain part of our policemen are Gastarbeiters from a neighboring country, who hate deeply all those whom they call ‘maidowns,’ and, as they carry arms, they cannot restrain themselves. I am afraid that if tension continues for some time, there will be new casualties among journalists.”