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Human Rights Watch demands Kiev ‘immediately’ release detained journalist

RT contributor Graham Philips and two Russian LifeNews journalists must be immediately set free by the Ukrainian authorities, Rachel Denber from Human Rights Watch told RT, adding that if there are any actual charges against them – they must be pressed.

Russian LifeNews journalists, Oleg Sidyakin and Marat Saichenko, were detained on Sunday soon after they released a scandalous video, which showed a UN-marked helicopter being used by the Ukrainian army in a military operation in the eastern regions.

Two days later, RT’s contributing journalist, Graham Phillips, was arrested at a checkpoint in the city of Mariupol.

The British citizen was reportedly interrogated by the Ukrainian Security Service (the SBU) for “filming facilities, which are forbidden from being filmed.”

HWR’s Rachel Denber says the fate of the detainees is raising serious concerns as they’re being deprived of the means of communication and the SBU is refusing to make any comments.

Journalists from various Russian media outlets were also recently denied from entering Ukraine, including Zvezda, NTV, Channel One and TVC channels as well as RT Arabic’s news crew.

Graham Phillips (Image from grahamwphillips.com)

RT:Human Rights Watch has called for the journalists to be released. Has there been any response from Kiev?

Rachel Denber:
We haven’t heard any response from Kiev. I’ve spent most of the day today trying to call the SBU to get confirmation about their status, their whereabouts and their legal status. I wasn’t able to get through to the SBU.

RT:Are you worried about them?

RD: Yes, I think that anytime that journalists are detained – are in custody – and there’s no specific information about their whereabouts, no access to them for their lawyers or in the case of Graham Phillips – to the consular services, the British Consulate; and in the case of Sidyakin and Saichenko – to the Russian Consulate – there always cause for concern. We’re worried about their treatment. We’re worried about their status. We believe that they should be immediately released. If there are specific, concrete, legal accusations against them let those charges be known. But, meanwhile, they should be released pending any investigation – if there indeed needs to be an investigation.

RT:Given the situation with journalists working in Ukraine now, do you believe the coverage of the upcoming Presidential election can be fair and balanced?

RD: There needs to be freedom of expression. The freedom of expression is one of the main…one of the key pillars for a fair vote. I think that it’s important to look at the broader media picture in Ukraine to make that assessment. You need to look whether there’s all different kinds of news reflected in the Ukrainian media; on Ukrainian television – in order to make that assessment.