Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : The UK believes media freedom is essential to democracy, and democracy to media freedom [October 2023]

The press release issued by the Foreign Office on 4 October 2023.

At the Warsaw Human Dimension Conference 2023, the UK called for accountability on behalf of persecuted Ukrainian, Russian, and Belarussian journalists and human rights activists.

Thank you very much, moderator.

Speaking on behalf of the UK.

Media freedom is essential to democracy, and democracy to media freedom.  The United Kingdom thanks ODIHR and the Representative on Freedom of the Media for their indispensable work on fundamental freedoms.  We call on participating States to heed their advice and recommendations and are delighted to support a side event this afternoon on the persecution of journalists in exile.

The Representative has shown the link between the decisions and actions of those in power and repression of the media.  Belarus is the prime example. The United Kingdom is horrified by the latest Moscow Mechanism report and the extent of, I quote, “politically motivated repression”.  Legislation can target any independent voice, particularly critics of government or Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine. Journalists have fled or face imprisonment.  Many journalists and media outlets are designated extremist.  Anyone who administers social media networks or communication channels for listed so-called “extremists”- can be detained and can face serious charges, even of terrorism.  And each month, since 2022, more content has been deemed extremist than for all of 2021.

At least fourteen journalists have been killed in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – Arman Soldin, from Agence France Press, was killed on 10 May near Bakhmut. Victoria Amelina, an award-winning Ukrainian writer who switched to investigating alleged war crimes following Russia’s illegal invasion, was killed by a Russian missile strike on a pizza restaurant in Kramatorsk in June.

Russia also continues to persecute dissenting voices in Ukrainian territory under its temporary control. Citizen journalist Iryna Danilovich, a human rights activist in Crimea, had criticised Russia’s illegal invasion.  Detained last year, she has been sentenced to seven years imprisonment, on the trumped up charge of “illegally purchasing explosives”. Her family report that she is in severe pain, yet unable to access medical assistance.

In Russia, the Kremlin continues to declare NGOs “foreign agents” or “undesirables”.  The Foreign Non-Governmental Organisations Law, adopted in July, criminalises collaboration with unregistered foreign NGOs. On 4 July, renowned independent Russian journalist, Elena Milashina, and respected lawyer, Alexander Nemov, were attacked in Chechnya. This assault is an affront to media freedom everywhere.  We call for accountability for the perpetrators.

We urge the Russian Government to comply with the 2018 Milan Decision on Safety of Journalists, and the 1991 Moscow Declaration on the importance of protecting vulnerable groups in armed conflict, including journalists.

We call for accountability on behalf of persecuted Ukrainians and on behalf of Russians and Belarussians simply seeking to tell the truth.

Thank you, Mr Moderator.