Ukraine Should Stop Arresting Pro-Russian Journalists

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May 22 2014 6:08 PM

Ukraine Should Stop Arresting Pro-Russian Journalists

Since the beginning of the crisis in Ukraine, Russian media outlets have propagated some stunningly inaccurate information. Unfortunately, the new government in Kiev, apparently fed up with being depicted as fascists, anti-Semites and Western stooges, appear to be responding by cracking down on hostile media.

Graham Philips, a British blogger working for the Russian cable network RT was released yesterday after being arrested near Mariupol for "unauthorized recording of sensitive sites," spending the night in custody, and being questioned about his work for the network.

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Two Russian journalists for the network Life News were also detained on Sunday and accused of aiding the rebels and carrying anti-aircraft missiles. A filmed confession from one  journalists, Marat Saichenko, was released by the Ukrainian Security Service and doesn’t exactly do much to allay concerns about the case.

This isn’t to defend the work of either outlet -- as the Wall Street Journal notes, “When three Ukrainian intelligence officers were captured by militants in late April, Life News aired what it called its interview with the beaten detainees as they sat tied to chairs, stripped to their underwear and blindfolded with what appeared to be bloody packaging tape.” And at this point, the conflict in Ukraine is as much an information war as a military conflict.

But these incidents, along with reports that Ukraine is denying entry to other Russian journalists ahead of the upcoming presidential elections, aren’t particularly encouraging about the country's prospects for a transition to democracy.

Just as they condemn the abuse and detention of Western and Ukrainian journalists by pro-Russian forces, Ukraine’s international supporters should put pressure on the government not to become the kind of regime these Russian outlets portray it as. 

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog.