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26 May, 2016 05:32

‘Ukrainian witch-hunting site violates intl laws & human rights with tacit support from Kiev’

The fact that private data of journalists in eastern Ukraine accused of “collaborating with terrorists” has repeatedly been leaked online with no repercussions means that it is backed by authorities, Russia’s ombudsman for human rights told RT.

RT: What’s your reaction to the news that a new list of journalists has been published on the so-called Peacekeeper (Mirotvorets) website?

Konstantin Dolgov: Well, first of all, I ‘like’ the term Peacekeeper. We have already commented when the first batch of names was published some time ago, we expressed our feelings about that and the feelings are absolutely negative.

It is a shocking incident. It is absolutely scandalous that this site continues to function: it has been closed down but then reopened. And we know this site is being patronized by Mr Anton Geraschenko who holds an official position in Ukraine; he’s adviser to the Minister of the Interior. He’s also a member of the Rada, so he is a parliamentarian and in his official capacity he has been patronizing this site. The information that it publishes definitely violates quite a number of international significant commitments and obligations of Ukraine in the field of the freedom of the media, definitely freedom of expression, and of course the laws to protect personal data. It’s clear.

RT: Just to be clear, who is backing this? The Ukrainian Interior Ministry?

KD: Well, it’s a good question. There’s absolutely no doubt that not a single step taken by this particular site could have been taken without, if not direct support, then at least some indirect backing from the authorities, because it has been happening for a while. It’s not the first instance as we know. And now I think around 300 names, not only names, not only some basic personal data but also addresses were published on the website, which is extremely dangerous.

RT: Journalists are trying to carry out their jobs as good as they can. As human rights ombudsman for Russia, what are your thoughts regarding their rights?

KD: Well definitely, it’s a gross violation of the basic human rights of those journalists. Of course we can and we must, by ‘we’ I mean the international community, tackle this issue and approach this incident as a gross violation of the rights of the journalists. I think that just yesterday or today the international committee for the protection of journalists also published its reaction, came out with a very strong critical reaction to slashing the Ukrainian authorities and this ‘Peacekeeper’ site for disclosing the information.

It’s a violation, given the situation with the freedom of expression and of the media in Ukraine, which is an awful situation, a lot of violations of the rights of Russian journalists above all definitely, but not only Russian. Let’s remember that Oles Buzina is no longer with us. He has been killed. No full-fledged investigation, nobody is taken to justice – no perpetrators, no organizers – like in many other crimes committed in Ukraine including political crimes. Witch-hunting continues in Ukraine and against this backdrop releasing this information can be considered and viewed as a clear and present danger for the lives of those journalists.

RT: How dangerous is this site?

KD: I think it’s extremely dangerous, that is exactly what we are discussing. Ukraine has lost quite a number of its journalists, and not only journalists also some politologists lately, writers and newsmen, those who opted to voice themselves differently from the official authorities, those who voiced discontent over the situation in Ukraine with human rights, with law in general, or lawlessness – a term which can characterize the situation in today’s Ukraine. So I think it’s extremely dangerous and I think quite a number of journalists, those who are on the list, they already voiced a lot of concern. Yesterday I listened to the comments of a German journalist and he was very much preoccupied with his future, with his safety and security, which is absolutely natural.

I don’t want to make any predictions, let’s hope that nothing bad will happen. But definitely, this information, in the first instance shouldn’t have appeared and definitely it must be removed. There must be a full-fledged, impartial investigation by the Ukrainian authorities into the incident. And we believe, we hope that such an investigation will take place and the site will be shut down, that it will not be reopened and that those responsible will be brought to justice.

That’s not only our Russian position, it’s also the position expressed by a number of international journalist associations and also you must have seen the comments from the OSCE special representative for the freedom of the media Ms Mijatovic.

RT: Despite the criticism before this site’s reopened and recharged their new names on it are you expecting a recharge of criticism now from the international community?

KD: Well, I must say that after the first batch of names appeared on this ‘Peacekeeper’… I’ve always mentioned the name of this site with lot of shuddering, because what kind of peace they want to keep with such information? It’s exactly the opposite. Unfortunately, they have unleashed a war on independent journalists in Ukraine. But definitely the first reaction was critical but not that strong. And unfortunately what we have been saying is that the entire international reaction to human rights violations in Ukraine, to impunity, the climate of impunity in Ukraine including the violations of the rights of the journalist – freedom of expression of the media – the overall international reaction has been pretty much muted. And we can understand why, because people in the West, politicians in the US in particular and in the EU they are pretty much reticent about criticizing Ukrainian authorities for human rights violations. It’s a double standard. We have said it before. It’s still our position. But now we see at least the first signs of a more robust international reaction, when the second batch of names appeared.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.