Reporters Without Borders: Press Freedom Under Threat in Ukraine

The non-profit group has cited surveillance and threats of forceful enlistment into the military faced by independent journalists

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has raised concerns about the increasing pressure on independent media outlets in Ukraine. The organization has urged the Ukrainian government to address the lack of accountability for violence against journalists and to remove arbitrary restrictions on reporting on the conflict with Russia.

In 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed a law expanding the government’s media regulation powers, allowing for the temporary suspension of media outlets. This legislation drew criticism both within Ukraine and internationally.

On Wednesday, RSF published a report titled ‘Shrinking press freedom in Ukraine: urgent need to implement a roadmap for the right to information’, which stated that “political pressure and obstacles are mounting on the Ukrainian media.”

“Since the beginning of 2024, at least five journalists have been under surveillance or threatened because of publications on corruption,” the group estimated. The report highlights how the threat of forced conscription into the Ukrainian armed forces has been used to silence reporters.

Furthermore, the report accuses Ukrainian authorities of directly interfering in the operations of certain media outlets. RSF cites the example of Ukrinform, where a military representative was appointed as head last month. The report also mentions the revelation of ‘stop lists’ of individuals banned from appearing on air by the same media outlet.

RSF criticized a decree issued earlier this month requiring journalists to submit any quotes and interviews with military personnel to a special center for strategic military communications for approval.

“The pressure, threats and interference must stop… the Ukrainian media landscape remains fragile,” Jeanne Cavelier, head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, emphasized.

Citing Ukrainian journalists and monitoring groups, the New York Times reported on Tuesday that the government in Kyiv has been increasingly restricting press freedoms, in a manner that is not justified by wartime security needs.

According to the article, the authorities in Kyiv are attempting to ensure that the opposition, particularly the party of former president Petro Poroshenko, does not receive positive coverage in the press, and that the government and the military are never criticized.

The newspaper claimed that the Ukrainian government has also had “tense relationships” with Western media throughout the conflict, temporarily revoking military press passes for journalists from several outlets, following reports critical of the military.