Journalists blast Ukraine for blacklisting Israelis

Reporters from England, Germany, Russia accused of threatening national security.

By
September 18, 2015 01:27
3 minute read.
Odessa, Ukraine

Odessa, Ukraine. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The Jerusalem Journalists Association on Thursday condemned the Ukrainian government for including several Israeli correspondents on a blacklist of people and entities being sanctioned by the former Soviet Republic, due to “threats to national interests, national security, sovereignty or territorial integrity.”

According to the office of President Petro Poroshenko, “restrictive measures [are being] be imposed against more than 400 individuals and 90 entities of Russia and other countries related to the annexation of Crimea and aggression in Donbas.” According to The Kyiv Post, this includes 86 international monitors of last year’s elections in the rebel held Donetsk and Luhansk territories.

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Out of the six Israelis on the list, three are journalists for Israeli Russian-language news outlets. Reporters from several other countries, such as England and Germany, were also blacklisted.

“At the risk of never been able to set foot in the Ukraine, my reaction is that this is another example of a state moving away from freedom and freedom of the press,” Haim Shibi, of the JJA’s committee for international relations, told The Jerusalem Post.

According to Shibi, who also serves as the association’s representative on the Israeli Press Council, “journalists are being intimidated, attacked and kidnapped in Ukraine. For many who care about reporting the story, it is becoming much safer to be on ‘the list.’ Yet there will be always those who will try to bring story as it is and we stand with them and will offer any help we can.”

The BBC also condemned Kiev after three of its employees found themselves included on the blacklist. The network’s foreign editor called the sanctions a “shameful attack on media freedom” and soon its people were removed from the list.

Avigdor Eskin, a Russian-Israeli described as an “infamous pro-Russian spin doctor” by the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress’s Vyacheslav Likhachev, was also included on the list. In May, Eskin called Josef Zissels, the head of the Vaad of Ukraine, a “kapo” on the Vesti news program.

While Eskin’s inclusion has not caused any fuss among journalists, that of Michael Rutz, a German reporter who stated that he had never even been in Ukraine, raised questions among those in the media regarding exactly what was behind the choice of names on the list.

It doesn’t matter if the reporters in question wrote articles that were pro or anti-Ukrainian, said Alex Kogan, a journalist with the Russian language news site IzRus, “the point is that they were journalists.”

“Come on, you are blaming journalists for supporting terrorism,” Kogan complained, citing the blacklist’s reference to the promotion of “terrorist activities” as a reason for placement therein.

“Some of these people never visited Donetsk or Luhansk and they are journalists… you are saying they are supporting terrorist activities? I’m speechless.”

According to newsru.co.il, several of the journalists blacklisted have been critical of the Ukrainian government.

Among those listed was Max Lurie of cursorinfo.co.il, who was reported to have been present in rebel-held areas as an election observer last November and who told Russia’s Tass news agency that the rebel elections were “well organized.”

According to Israeli Russian- language journalist Shimon Briman, Ukraine “has the right not to allow entrance on the territory of those journalists and public figures who are engaged in hostile or illegal activity, “and the fact that it published the list of such names speaks about the openness of the authorities of Ukraine, who are warning specific persons in advance so they they didn’t spend money on tickets.”

Briman panned the inclusion of Lurie as well, however, stating that he is a “neutral journalist and one of veterans of Russian-speaking mass media of Israel” who never supported pro- Russian positions.

“Yes, he was in Donetsk with the formal status of an ‘election observer’ but (as he told me), it was his only opportunity for entry to Donetsk,” he said.

Alexander Ronkin of Iton TV, who was also included on the blacklist, was quoted by NEWSru as saying that he “in no way violated the duties of an independent journalist” when covering the rebel elections.

The list shows that Ukraine is “moving farther away from the norms of Western democracy,” he said.

“I think it’s a sort of mistake and that the Israeli Embassy in Kiev should investigate and take care of it,” Eduard Dolinsky of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee told the Post on Thursday.

The Ukrainian Embassy in Tel Aviv did not respond to a request for comment.


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