Sign up for PM Award Updates!

Never Felt Discriminated For Speaking Russian In Western Ukraine Says Poet

Choices in the Crimean referendum

“In the past five years, I visited the Ukrainian-speaking Western Ukraine six times. I have never seen any nationalists there. I have never felt discriminated against because I spoke the Russian language. Those are myths. In all the cities of Western Ukraine I have visited, I spoke with everyone in Russian—in stores, in trains, in cafes. I have found new friends. Far from feeling aggression, everyone instead treated me with respect.’

These are the words of prize-winning Russian-language poet Anastasiya Afanasieva who lives in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Russian troops began overrunning Crimea setting the stage for the referendum on Sunday in which, according to the results at least, the voters decided overwhelmingly to rejoin Russia. The excuse of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin for his use of force in Crimea, manipulating to hold a referendum and now for expanding into other areas of Ukraine, is the discrimination Russian-speaking minority suffers in the hands of the Ukrainians.

Afanasieva’s exasperation appears in a contribution to Poetry International (reproduced by Pen America in its blog) by Ilya Kaminsky, who lives in the US. He reflects on what concerns poets chiefly – examining the way what social scientists, politicians and soldiers speak about in sweeping generalisations actually happens in the lives of individuals and communicating the experience in words to touch the emotions, consciences or souls of others.
“[rather] than using this space for personal reflection, I want to include some communications I have had with Ukrainians, and particularly poets, in the region, to give voice to those whose world is in turmoil, and to give English speakers a better sense of current events,” says Kaminsky in the piece titled ‘Letters from the Ukraine.’
One poem that probably speaks of what is happening in Crimea right now:
Who came to power in our cities?
Who are these
that decide
to break the hearts of our houses and let out their warm raspberry blood?
Now they come
together in their black suits, looking like chimney-sweepers
who have come
to power.
(Translated from Ukrainian by Valzhyna Mort)
Click here to read the full text 

Will Russia Use Cyberattacks In Crimea Conflict?

OSCE Media Freedom Rep. Dunja Mijatovic

Even as media freedom in Crimea became increasingly threatened with television stations taken off the air and journalists assaulted, experts are watching possible cyberattacks accompanying Russia’s takeover of peninsula and predict that it could become a reality as confrontation on the ground grows.
“Russia has limited themselves to the things they usually do in the onset of a conflict to try to shape opinion, stifle critics, and advance their own viewpoint,” James Lewis, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington, D.C told MIT Technology Review. “They are doing the informational side, which is the opening move in the playbook.”

He added, “If violence breaks out in the Crimea, I think they will bump it up a notch.”
The article said that Russia watchers in the US were waiting to see the Russians would use its cyber war capabilities, which they have integrated into their military doctrine. “But it may be they have decided they don’t need to show what they’ve got, and won’t do it,” said Stewart Baker former chief of policy, at the Department of Homeland Security.
Please click to readthe full article.

Censorship in Crimea As Russian Troops Takeover

Russian soldiers in Crimea

International monitors have protested eroding media freedom in the autonomous region of Crimea in southern Ukraine, as the Russian military began overrunning the region from February 28. Crimean authorities censored media networks seen as hostile, prevented journalists from outside the region entering Crimea, while attacks on journalists have also been reported.

“We remind all parties to the conflict that they have a duty to protect journalists and allow them to work without hindrance,” said the Paris-based Reporters without Borders (RWB/RSF) secretary-general Christophe Deloire.

“Those who hold power in Crimea and the armed militias controlling the region must do everything possible to ensure that the local media can resume operating, to restore communications infrastructure and to lift the barriers preventing some journalists from entering the peninsula,” he said.
RSF said the main independent television network in Crimea, Chernomorka, had been ordered to go off air since March 3, for reasons the organisation said was “beyond our control.” The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said “Crimea’s State Television and Radio Transmitting Center (TRTC) forced the independent Chernomorka, off the air.” CPJ added that Ukrainian media had published a letter by S. N. Dotsenko, head, TRTC, saying “broadcasting had been stopped because of reasons that were unrelated to his agency, but did not offer further details.”
RSF said that although Chernomorka continued to broadcast via cable, satellite and the internet, but its internet was brought down by a cyber attack.
RSF said the state-controlled broadcaster GRTK Krym “whose headquarters was overrun by soldiers” is the only television channel left to local viewers.
CPJ reported Aleksandra Kvitko, Chernomorskaya’s chief editor telling Ukraine’s UNIAN news agency, “Only two local channels are broadcast on the territory of the autonomous republic – Chernomorskaya Teleradiokompaniya and Crimean state broadcaster GTRK Krym. By turning off Chernomorskaya, regional residents have been stripped of their right to choose. Now, we all must have only one, ‘correct’ opinion.'”
Meanwhile, on March 1, RSF said a 30-man militia calling itself the Crimea Front had stormed into the offices of the Centre for Investigative Journalism in Simferopol and prevented journalists from leaving the building for some hours. They were eventually freed and allowed to take some equipment with them. “The militia also told the journalists that the ‘Crimea Front’ was ready to provide them with enough to live on, and to reach ‘an agreement on proper coverage of the events,'” said RSF.
In a related story CPJ said, “The Center for Investigative Journalism reported today that members of the regional parliament of Crimea blamed Ukrainian media for ‘spreading panic’ and ‘imposing incorrect and biased information’ about the events in the region. The MPs threatened to ‘shut off the flow of deceitful and biased information in order to save the public from negative impact.'”
Meanwhile, RSF said journalists from the Ukraine were prevented from entering Crimea at checkpoints along the border. Bohdan Kutyepov, a reporter for television station Hromadske, said he was turned back by armed men who had “threatened to open fire if the journalists tried to take photos of them.” Kutyepov was with colleagues from Inter TV, CDFand France 24. Two other journalists, Igor Trubayev (Khersonskie Vesti) and Oleg Zaychenko(Tvoya Pravda), from Kherson were also forced to turn back from a checkpoint at Armyansk, said RSF.
RSF also reported that several journalists had been attacked in Crimea, giving details of two ATRcameramen assaulted in Simferopol while filming militiamen guarding a building used by the regional government’s ministers.  There were also incidents in eastern Ukraine, RSF added.
In another incident, CPJ reported that Tatyana Rikhtun, the chief editor of the website Sevastopol 911 was assaulted and her camera snatched as she filmed Russian soldiers surrounding the Ukrainian navy base. She had reported the incident to the regional police and asked them to investigate.
With escalating tensions in Crimea and one journalist killed over 160 journalists injured in clashes in Ukraine in the past four months, the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its European affiliate European Federation of Journalists issued an advisory to journalists planning to visit Ukraine.
“Given the many brutal attacks against journalists in Ukraine in recent months and the ever increasing tensions in the country, we urge journalists covering events to remain mindful of their safety at all times and to ensure they take every step necessary to protect themselves. No story is worth the loss of a life,” said IFJ President Jim Boumelha.

Cyberspace Joins CPJ’s Media Risk List In 2013

Supranational Cyberspace joined the Risk List in 2013, which the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has developed to flag countries where media freedom is in significant decline. Countries that have displayed the most alarming regress in 2013 are: Egypt, Russia, Syria, Vietnam, Turkey, Bangladesh, Liberia, Ecuador, and Zambia.

CPJ said that the decentralised nature of the internet had once provided protection to journalists investigating and reporting controversial issues more than the traditional media. However today, as the documents of NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed, global surveillance by the United States and its allies was a threat to the work journalists do by compromising privacy of their communication.
CPJ quoted Marietje Schaake, a member of the European Parliament and leader on Internet freedom issues: “‘Countries who seek to gain control over their people through the Internet have their own agendas. They are in search of larger governmental control or even censorship online. We must ensure the NSA-triggered debate does not become a race to the bottom.'”
CPJ said other trends witnessed in 2013 include:
  • Deterioration in several indicators, including fatalities and censorship, in Egypt
  • New legislation to stifle free speech in Ecuador, Liberia, Russia, Vietnam, and Zambia
  • Firings and forced resignations of journalists in Turkey at the government’s behest
  • Targeted violence against journalists in Bangladesh and Russia, and a soaring rate of abductions in Syria
  • Crackdowns on online journalism in Russia, Vietnam, and Bangladesh
Please click hereto read the summary; and herefor the Risk List 2013.


Russia, Other Autocracies Modify Media Censorship To Suit The Times

Using Kremlin’s recent move to crackdown further on Russia independent media by replacing the editorial leadership of RIA Novosti with regime loyalists, two Washington DC-based scholars argue that authoritarian regimes are ‘retooling’ their approach to censorship.
Chris Walker, executive director, for the International Forum for Democratic Studies at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and Robert Orttung, assistant director of the Institute of European, Russian and Eurasian Studies at the Elliott School, George Washington University say that authoritarian regimes caught between the need for an open media required for the operation of a modern economy while at the same wanting a firm control in the exercise of state power, are re-forging their weapons to exercise “effective media control” rather than oppressive, blanket censorship.

 Effective political control is, “enough for them to convey their strength and puff up claims to legitimacy while undermining potential alternatives. Such state dominance enables regimes to put pro-government narratives front and center while using the power of editorial omission to limit criticism of official policies and actions.”
The article that appeared in the Washington Post is from a longer one in the January 2014 issue of the Journal of Democracy.
The authors analyse this strategy in relation to four sets of audience the media of authoritarian regimes address: the elite, the general public, the opposition, and regular internet users.
They conclude, “Authoritarian governments willfully deprive hundreds of millions of people of authentically plural and independent information and analysis. The intense attention devoted to the rise of new media in recent years has led many to underestimate television’s enduring and powerful role as an undemocratic force in authoritarian societies. But through their dogged control of traditional media, and increasing ability to impede the political content of new media, authoritarian regimes are shaping an entirely different understanding of “breaking the news.” 
Read the full article here