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‘End silence of the lambs’: Austrian reporter fears for his life in Ukraine

‘End silence of the lambs’: Austrian reporter fears for his life in Ukraine
A veteran Austrian journalist has urged for action against media crackdown in Ukraine, saying he fears for his life after being labeled “a Kremlin agent” by a vigilante website, according to Kronen Zeitung.

Christian Wehrschuetz, a correspondent with Austria’s leading ORF broadcaster, said it is increasingly hard for him and his employees to feel safe in modern-day Ukraine, Kronen Zeitung reported, citing excerpts from Wehrschuetz’s letter to the channel’s management and the Austrian government. 

Wehrschuetz, who started his journalistic career in the mid-1980s, reportedly said there are “militant ultranationalist groups threatening journalists who critically report on the policies of Ukraine’s leadership and try to stay objective.”

READ MORE: Russian reporters urged to leave Ukraine after Kiev murder

The journalist claimed he and his employees were “harassed” while performing their duties as were other reporters critical of the Kiev regime. Wehrschuetz has recently been listed as a “Kremlin agent” by a Ukrainian vigilante website posipaka.org which found him guilty of producing reports from post-2014 Crimea.

The website, whose name stands for ‘henchman’ in Ukrainian, sees its mission in naming and blaming foreign reporters and politicians who are even remotely sympathetic towards Moscow.

Wehrschuetz noted that two journalists have already been killed and he “certainly” has “no intention of being next.”

His letter then urges to end “the silence of the lambs.” According to Wehrschuetz, Western powers are well aware of the poor state of press freedom in Ukraine but prefer to turn a blind eye to it.

The journalist implored the Austrian government and the ORF to step in and demand that Wehrschuetz’s name be removed from the controversial website.

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Karin Kneissl, the Austrian Foreign Minister said that the “increasing restriction of press freedom in Ukraine is unacceptable” and that “the use of force and threats against journalists must be punished.”

While her statement stopped just short of blaming Kiev for targeting foreign reporters, it noted that they still have difficulty getting accreditation from Ukrainian authorities. Kneissl promised to raise this issue with a Ukrainian ambassador later in January

Ranked 101st in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index, Ukraine isn’t the safest place for reporters to work in. A number of journalists have lost their lives since the start of the 2014 war in Eastern Ukraine, with Pavel Sheremet, a renowned Russian TV presenter being the latest victim. His car was blown up in downtown Kiev and a government-led investigation yielded no results so far. 

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