Ukrainian authorities should immediately drop a ban on 17 Russian journalists and protect media freedom, Human Rights Watch said today. On May 27, 2016, President Petro Poroshenko signed a decree to implement a May 20 National Security and Defense Council resolution barring 17 Russian reporters, editors, and media executives from entering Ukraine through December 31, 2017.
"Ukraine is legitimately concerned about the effects of Russian propaganda, but cracking down on media freedom is a misguided, inappropriate response to whatever disagreement the Ukrainian government may have with Russia's media coverage about Ukraine," said Tanya Cooper, Europe and Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Targeting journalists in this way inevitably encourages censorship."
Among the 17 are Konstantin Ernst, general director of Channel One, Russia's main state-owned television channel, and Margarita Simonyan, chief editor of Russia's international television network RT (formerly Russia Today) and the Rossiya Segodnya news agency. Journalists on the list also include Vladislav Fronin, chief editor of the official government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, and Vitali Leibin, correspondent at Russkiy Reporter magazine. Russia either owns, at least partially, or exerts significant control over the media outlets listed in the presidential decree.
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The decree says that the targeted journalists "create real and potential threat to national interests, national security, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Ukraine; facilitate terrorist activity and violate citizens' rights and freedoms; contribute to the occupation of territories, and obstruct full realization of rights and freedoms by Ukrainian citizens."
As a reminder, Russian citizens do not need a visa to travel to Ukraine.