International Federation of Journalists objects to permission to supply Ukrainian mass media with arms

PRAVDA.Ru has already reported, starting with December 7, 2001, on the instruction of Ukraine’s Minister for Internal Affairs Yury Smirnov that members of mass media should be allowed to carry and use, if necessary, guns with rubber bullets. This was caused by an assassination of Tor TV company’s manager Igor Alexandrov in the town of Slavyansk of the Donetsk region. Right after the assassination, the minister said that journalists involved in the investigation were taking “a war track." He then said, “If you are ready to start a war, you will be allowed to use guns to defeat criminality." As it is clear now, the minister fulfilled the promise. Permission to carry guns has been issued. More information has been published regarding registration of applications, medical checkup, and payment for the right to carry guns.

However, much is said in Ukraine and beyond its limits that this solution is a wrong one. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) was the first to react to the plans of the Ukrainian authorities to allow journalists reporting on politics, crime, and corruption to carry guns with rubber bullets. It considers such actions to be wrong.

The federation circulated a statement in Brussels that stated it is “the law enforcement authorities that are to protect citizens, mass-media members in particular." The document says that risks for all reporters and mass media members will increase with the permission’s issue.

IFJ secretary general Aidan White says that “journalism is not an armed struggle for the right to interpret events. Journalists should not be armed only because the government creates no safe conditions for their work," Aidan White stressed.

Chairman of Ukraine’s National Union of Journalists Igor Lubchenko told PRAVDA.Ru that “the authority shifted the responsibility of protecting people onto journalists themselves. In a word, reporters and editors have been pushed out to the barricades with guns. At the same time, police are behind their backs." Igor Lubchenko thinks that this complicates the situation. In his words, there will be more cases of attacks on journalists with guns. The risk to be involved in a crime will be increased at that. That is why Ukraine’s National Union of Journalists thinks the minister’s instruction should be cancelled.

Journalists are to pay about $200 for all theprocedures needed to obtain permission to carry a gun. This is all accompanied by disapproval of many sources.

Alexander Gorobets PRAVDA.Ru Kiev Ukraine

Translated by Maria Gousseva