OSCE/Colin Peters

She commented on the situation following the latest report of the Chief Monitor of the Special Monitoring Mission to the OSCE Permanent Council, the OSCE press service said.

According to Mijatovic, on January 19, OSCE Chief Monitor, Ambassador Ertugrul Apakan, among other issues, highlighted in his address to the OSCE Permanent Council several developments which continue to limit freedom of expression and freedom of the media in areas not controlled by the Ukrainian government. In particular, he mentioned a ban of over 350 websites and continued restriction of access to Ukrainian media outlets, both in print and broadcast. Particularly worrying, the Representative noted, is the continued threats and intimidation of media workers, as well as the arrests of bloggers Eduard Nedelyaev and Gennadiy Benitskiy by members of the self-proclaimed "Luhansk People's Republic," or "LPR."

"Access to information, plurality of opinion and the safety of journalists continue to suffer in times of crisis," Mijatovic said. "As is the case in Crimea, the ongoing deterioration of free expression and free media in conflict-affected parts of Ukraine is deeply disturbing."

Read alsoRussia continues to lie about its role in Donbas, plays victim – U.S. Mission to OSCEIn addition, the OSCE Representative expressed concern once again regarding the persecution of Crimean journalist Nikolay Semena from the Krym-realii online media outlet. According to reports, on January 20, Semena was indicted for "public calls for actions violating the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation." The indictment follows the publication of an article written by the journalist, who expressed his views on the status of the peninsula. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison.

"The case of Semena reminds us all of the arbitrary practice of silencing critical voices in Crimea," Mijatovic said. "It is totally unacceptable to persecute the journalist for expressing his views. I call for all charges against Semena to be dropped."

"I once again call on all those responsible for law and order in these areas to stop the destruction of freedom of the media and do their utmost to ensure the safety of journalists," Mijatovic said.

Mijatovic added that it is difficult to give a comprehensive assessment of the current state of affairs of media freedom and to engage with journalists in conflict-affected parts of Ukraine and in Crimea, due, primarily, to a number of access and security obstacles.