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Svyatoslav Tsegolko, President Poroshenko’s press secretary, has announced on Facebook and Twitter that the President has instructed his staff to remove the names of the BBC journalists from the sanctions list.
Poroshenko said this during a meeting with the British ambassador to Ukraine, Judith Gough.
“Freedom of the press is, for me, of absolute value.”
The National Security and Defence Council will, Tsegolko wrote, make a statement on the issue today.
As readers are doubtless already aware, last night the Ukrainian presidency released an extensive list of new sanctions against individuals and entities accused of supporting the Russian take-over of Ukrainian territory.
Among those named were not only Russian and separatist officials, arms companies and state enterprises, but numerous journalists. Most of these worked for either Russian state-owned propaganda channels or pro-separatist outlets. However several of those named had no known affiliation with (or even much sympathy towards) the Kremlin.
These included the BBC’s Steve Rosenberg, Emma Wells and Anton Chicherov, as well as Michael Rutz from Die Zeit and two Spanish journalists – Antonio Pampliega and Ángel Sastre – who are now missing in Syria.
The BBC’s Foreign Editor, Andrew Roy, told RFE/RL that the sanctions were “a shameful attack on media freedom.”
“These sanctions are completely inappropriate and inexplicable measures to take against BBC journalists who are reporting the situation in Ukraine impartially and objectively, and we call on the Ukrainian government to remove their names from this list immediately.”
The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, said this morning that the introduction of “over-broad restrictions that curb free movement of journalists is not the way to ensure security.”
The journalists’ names appear in a section titled:
“International observers” at the “elections” in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions and the “referenda” in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea
This would suggest that the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) which would have been responsible for drafting the list, has confused reporters with the ‘international observers‘ who took part in the internationally condemned ballots in occupied parts of Ukraine. Most of these ‘observers’ were members of either far-right or far-left European political parties.
Certainly the accusation, that Rosenberg, for example, supported the Russian occupation, seems bizarre given that he and his camera crew were attacked last year by thugs while investigating the deaths of Russian servicemen, believed to have been serving in Ukraine, in Astrakhan, Russia.
Of Chicherov, Daniel Sanford, now the BBC’s home affairs correspondent, tweeted:
At 13:09 Kiev time, Yuriy Stets, the Ukrainian minister for information policy, wrote on his Facebook page, promising to have the sanctions on the journalists lifted.
The Interpreter translates:
The list of media personnel who have been sanctioned is questionable and needs changing. For this reason, I have had a discussion with the leadership of the SBU and representatives from the National Security and Defence Council (NSDC).
Stets said that a working group, comprised of members of parliament, the NSDC and Olha Skrynyk, chairman of the Public Council of the Ministry of Information Policy, would tackle the issue.
The minister insisted however, that sanctions on journalists working for Russian state-owned media should remain under sanctions for fabricating propaganda.
— Pierre Vaux