Religious organizations increasingly violate journalists’ rights – OpEd – Eurasia Review


At the beginning of January 2019, a remarkable event for the Ukrainian faithful happened: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church gained independence. Before that, there were three largest religious denominations in the country; two of them – the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – the Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP) and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) merged into the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (OCU) which received the “Tomos autocephaly ”(a decree of independence) from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, first among its peers in the Orthodox world.

Both Churches had been considered “non-canonical”, that is, unrecognized in Orthodoxy, and the only canonical Church in the territory of Ukraine was the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate (UOC -MP), which historically fell under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church. . The UOC-MP opposes autocephaly and does not recognize the OCU and its hierarchs.

The Moscow Patriarchate’s close affiliation with Moscow influenced the attitude of many Ukrainians and the country’s authorities towards it after the events of 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and supported armed uprisings in eastern L ‘Ukraine. Since then, radical nationalists have tried to seize the churches of the Moscow Patriarchate, the security services oppress its members and the media accuse it of collaborating with the Russian secret services.

In addition, last December, the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) of Ukraine forced the UOC-MP to mention its affiliation with the Russian Orthodox Church in its name. Moreover, the adoption of the “ecclesiastical” bill n ° 4128 in January will considerably complicate the life of all religious organizations.

The problem is that the more strained the relationship between the authorities, the OCU and the UOC-MP, the more cases of rights violations by all parties are documented. In particular, the oppression of journalists has intensified.

In January, Ukrainian media reported that a journalist was beaten in front of the UOC-MP assembly in the Vinnytsia region. According to the local newspaper 33channel, its journalists tried to attend the meeting of the metropolitans of three dioceses but the security refused to let them enter. Newspaper correspondent Irina Zotova claimed that the security guards beat the photo correspondent and tried to break their equipment.

On February 18, the Mass Media Institute wrote that on February 17, a group of UOC-MP clergy and laity restrained Galyna Yeremytsa, a journalist from Chernovtsy.Online
information site, the exercise of its functions. Yeremytsa was attempting to film Church supporters at their meeting in a ward, but people “shouted, pulled her clothes off, asked to stop filming” and snatched the journalist’s license. After the incident, she called the police, the case is currently under investigation.

On the other hand, an editor of the TO: Vinnytsia The public channel was fired in January on the pretext of “non-compliance with journalistic standards”. Ukrainian media claim the reason was the December story about the appointment of Archbishop UOC-MP Varsonofy who replaced Metropolitan Simeon after joining the new Church. The dissatisfaction was caused by the fact that the UCO was not mentioned in the report. The channel later apologized on its website, noting that “the story does not contain crucial information about the transfer of Metropolitan Simeon to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the facts leading up to the arrival. of the Archbishop in Vinnytsia ”.

Such examples illustrate an increased violation of the rights of journalists. Unfortunately, such an attitude towards the media is common among all sides of the conflict between Ukrainian churches. It is mainly caused by attempts to restrict pluralism in the media and often to affect the objective coverage of an event.

This can be said not only from the religious sphere. As stated in the report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights of December 17, 2018 on Ukraine, from August 16 to November 15, 2018, 59 human rights violations regarding freedom of opinion and of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, of religion or belief, as well as the right to non-discrimination and equal protection under the law. In addition, it was highlighted that “increasingly bold and visible attacks against media professionals, civil society activists and those who represent alternative social and political views”.

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