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‘Censorship unacceptable in Europe’: Austrian FM condemns Ukraine’s refusal to let journalist in

‘Censorship unacceptable in Europe’: Austrian FM condemns Ukraine’s refusal to let journalist in
Ukraine has barred a veteran journalist from a major Austrian broadcaster from entering the country, as he allegedly poses a “threat” to its national security. The move was slammed by Vienna as an act of un-European censorship.

Christian Wehrschutz, a veteran journalist with ORF broadcaster and the head of its Kiev office, was banned on Thursday from entering Ukraine for a year. The decision was announced by MP Olga Chervakova, who – quite ironically – is the deputy chief of the Ukrainian Parliament's committee on freedom of speech and press. 

The official explained, citing sources from within the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), that the journalist poses a “threat to national security.” Apart from that, Wehrschutz is accused of violating Ukrainian borders, of “discrediting” its armed forces and, naturally, of “peddling Kremlin propaganda” – as any coverage unfavorable to the Kiev authorities is routinely labeled.

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The entry ban was later confirmed by both Ukrainian and Austrian foreign ministries. Austria’s foreign minister Karin Kneissl slammed the ban “as an act of censorship that is unacceptable in Europe” and urged Kiev to reverse the decision.

“We condemn this approach, which is totally incompatible with fundamental European values, and call for the immediate lifting of the ban,” Kneissl said on Twitter. 

The journalist, for his part, rejected the allegations of having violated the Ukraine border in a brief statement on Facebook. 

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Wehrschutz had previously been targeted by Ukrainian authorities. Last December, Kiev refused him accreditation to the warzone in the eastern Ukraine, where a conflict between Ukrainian military and local separatists has been raging since 2014. Wehrschutz has been covering the confrontation in the region since its very beginning. Back then, the Austrian government accused Kiev of barring the journalist from covering the conflict and summoned the Ukrainian envoy to explain the move.

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