New restrictions on Ukrainian and international journalists’ access to more than 50 municipalities across Ukraine have drawn an angry reaction from media organizations.
The development follows an order by the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) of new rules for war-time reporting issued on March 3. Under the new approach, local military commanders need to categorise their operational territory into: green zones (full access); yellow zones (supervised access); and red zones (no access).
Reporters Without Borders (RSF), an international organization which seeks to defend the right to have access to free and reliable information, issued a statement today that slams the new procedures and their impact on quality reporting of war-time events.
The RSF’s head for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Jeanne Cavelier, said: “This decision is completely incomprehensible. Journalists are denied access to certain areas on a discretionary decision, while one of the major issues since the start of the war has been the dissemination of reliable information obtained thanks to journalists being able to work freely.
“We call on the Ukrainian authorities to lift these undue restrictions immediately and to conduct a complete rethink with the aim of facilitating the work of journalists.”
In addition to highlighting the broader principle of freedom of information, RSF and local partners have today publicly pointed out various operational challenges from the new rules, including:
· Some areas currently being shelled are designated as green zones while other peaceful areas are designated as red zones;
· Incomplete lists of zone categorization in individual municipalities/regions;
· Inconsistent publication and release of zoning lists;
· Large cities such as Mykolayiv and Kherson – where dozens of journalists have been operating and living – being designated as yellow zones, and;
· The unforeseen impact on local Ukrainian journalists such as one “who wants to write about new children’s playgrounds [and] must now request accreditation in order to access the municipality where [s/he] is based.”
The AFU decision to restrict journalist appears to be an attempt to tighten operational secrecy in the lead-up to an imminent spring offensive.
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