Year of selective blindness: Russian journalist still in Ukrainian jail under bogus treason charges
Exactly a year ago the head of RIA Novosti's Ukraine branch was snatched in Kiev and put in jail under a charge of high treason. Western champions of media rights have shown spectacular will to ignore the scandalous case.
Being a journalist in a nation where the government can put you in jail for unfavorable reporting is understandably risky, but at least one can hope to find international support after getting into trouble. Foreign governments and international organizations would cry foul and try to pressure the persecutors.
Well, Kirill Vyshinsky didn’t get this response. On March 15, 2018 he was arrested by agents of the SBU, Ukraine’s powerful national security agency, and charged with treason. Vyshinsky holds both Russian and Ukraine passports. His alleged crime was that he waged “information warfare” against Ukraine, or at least that’s what the SBU said at the time. The accusation may result in a 15 year jail term.Also on rt.com Traitor, terrorism apologist… valuable hostage: Ukraine's blatant crackdown on news agency chief
Vyshinsky has been kept in pre-trial detention since, denied bail or hospital treatment and restricted in visitation rights. The prosecution managed to formulate an 80-page indictment by March, listing 72 stories and opinion pieces published by the news agency since 2014, which the prosecution claims to be manipulative or false.
The journalist insists the accusations are absurd. How can a factually accurate news report about Crimea changing its time zone to that of Moscow or an opinion piece giving a historic overview of referenda held in Ukraine since gaining independence in 1991 be anti-Ukrainian, he argued. The prosecutors said even factually accurate stories can be “anti-Ukrainian in nature.”
Regardless of one’s attitude to what happened between Ukraine and Russia during and after the Maidan mass protests, accurate reporting of facts should not be criminalized. Just imagine what would happen, for example, if in 1999 Russia arrested and put on trial the head of the BBC Russian service, saying the British broadcaster’s coverage of the freshly reignited hostilities in Chechnya was “anti-Russian.” All hell would break loose, and rightfully so.Also on rt.com 'Packaged anger, just for you': Lewinski scandal was beginning of the end for American journalism
On Wednesday, there was a protest in front of the Ukrainian embassy in Moscow, calling on Kiev to free Vyshinsky. And a deafening silence from the usual Western defenders of media freedom. Amnesty International, for example, doesn’t mention Vyshinsky’s name on its website at all – not even on the Russian-language and Ukrainian-language versions.
Officials from the Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe and International Federation of Journalists voiced concern about Vyshinsky’s continued incarceration when asked for comments by the Russian media. But the organizations didn’t release any official statements on the occasion of the anniversary. Neither did the Committee to Protect Journalists, although it did report the start of Vyshynsky’s trial in early April.Also on rt.com Accused ‘spy’ Maria Butina wouldn’t be in jail if she ‘wasn’t Russian’ - attorney
As for mainstream media in the West, they don’t seem to be particularly interested in their Russian-Ukrainian colleague. Unless, of course, there is a chance to brand him a Russian propagandist who may threaten America’s democracy. A story that the Daily Beast ran in March says Vyshinsky’s wife hired US political consultant Ezra Friedlander to lobby for the journalist’s release in Ukraine, and implied that this may have compromised Friedlander’s other clients, including House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler. In other words, red-baiting at its best.
Apparently, not all reporters are made equal in the eyes of the West. There are those that deserve protection. And there are people like Vyshinsky, or WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, who are not really reporters – just some guys telling true but unwelcomed facts about the US and its allies. They deserve to rot in jail, right?
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