Citing United Nations data, top independent human rights experts said on Wednesday that seven journalists had been killed in Ukraine as many of them faced unprecedented danger and were even targeted in the exercise of their work.
The alert from UN-appointed independent human rights experts, including the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression, cited “numerous reports” that journalists have been “targeted”.
According to the report, cited by the experts, journalists have been tortured, abducted, attacked and killed, or denied safe passage from besieged towns and regions.
Latest UN data says seven journalists have been confirmed killed in Ukraine since the February 24 Russian invasion; The last time so many media professionals lost their lives in Ukraine was in 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea.
Rights experts, in a statement, said Russia’s war on Ukraine had been facilitated by “the silence of critical voices…for an extended period.”
They pointed to the blocking of social media platforms and news sites in Russia, as well as the disruption of foreign media services.
Experts say Moscow’s “massive labeling” of independent media as “foreign agents” is cause for concern.
The experts said: “We deplore the systematic crackdown against political opponents, independent journalists and media outlets, human rights activists, protesters and many others who oppose the actions of the Russian government.
“All these measures amount to the creation of a state monopoly on information in flagrant violation of Russia’s international obligations.”
After condemning Russia’s alleged use of “war propaganda” against Ukraine, rights experts claimed that disinformation was also being spread about Ukraine in Russian state media.
They also dismissed the European Union’s recent decision to ban two Russian media companies as “disproportionate”, adding that the decision had been used “as a pretext…for (the) further closure of independent media” in Russia.
“Promoting access to diverse and verifiable information, including ensuring access to free, independent and pluralistic media, is a more effective response to disinformation,” the experts said.
They added: “We call on the Russian government to fully implement its international human rights obligations, including by respecting, promoting and protecting the freedom to seek, receive and impart information independently of borders, and ensuring a safe working environment for independent media, journalists and civil society actors.