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SPJ calls for journalist protections in the Ukraine



David Cuillier, SPJ National President, 520.248.6242, spjdave@yahoo.com
Ellen Kobe, SPJ Communications Coordinator, 317.920.4785, ekobe@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists is gravely concerned that journalists have become overt targets for the principal factions in the current unrest in Ukraine and urges government action to protect the flow of information to the world's citizens.

The Society’s 8,000 members stand in solidarity with journalists targeted by violence and repression while covering unrest in Ukraine. SPJ calls on government and civic leaders to influence actors in this conflict and protect the professional rights of journalists.

"When journalists are bludgeoned and killed, the people of this world are blinded to what is happening around them," SPJ President David Cuillier said. "This is about protecting humanity's right to know what is happening in historical events that have huge implications for our world's future."

Journalists representing outlets from various countries, including the United States and Russia, have been detained or denied entry visas, while others have been threatened and beaten. Recently, three Ukrainian journalists were shot as they covered clashes in Odessa, in southern Ukraine. And despite orders from Ukraine’s acting president Oleksandr Turchynov that law enforcement work to protect journalists, reporters have been kidnapped, detained and prevented from entering Ukraine or specific regions of the country, according to media accounts and research by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

The state of professional journalism in Ukraine has declined as violence has increased, with reporters for international outlets treated as intruders and even Ukrainian journalists abused as traitors, or commodities in kidnap-for-profit schemes.

Journalists, working under a reasonable expectation that they won’t be directly targeted for aggression, are essential to the world’s awareness of complex realities behind civil unrest and political conflict in Ukraine, said Ricardo Sandoval, chairman of SPJ's international journalism committee.

"The unrestricted flow of stories and images from Ukraine is critical to the search for a peaceful resolution," Sandoval said. "But increased repression and violence only leave the factions in this conflict more isolated and mired in deeper conflict."

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information about SPJ, please visit http://www.spj.org/.

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