On World Press Freedom Day, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine has called on the international community to increase pressure on Russia to release Crimean Tatar journalists imprisoned on trumped-up charges.
"On World Press Freedom Day, we join the call of Ukrainian journalists, former illegally held persons Roman Sushchenko and Stanislav Aseiev, to increase international pressure on Russian authorities to release Crimean Tatar public journalists Ramzi Bekirov, Osman Arifmemetov, Rustem Sheikhaliev, Nariman Memedinov, and rights activist Server Mustafeiev, as well as lift the illegal charges off of them," MFA Ukraine wrote on Facebook.
The Foreign Ministry emphasizes that in order to conceal from the world the real situation in the temporarily occupied Crimea, the Russian occupation administration has since occupation start set up an "information ghetto" – systematically destroying freedom of speech on the peninsula, harassing and imprisoning journalists and bloggers under the pretext of combating extremism or separatism, and impeding their work in every way possible.
"ZMINA. The Center for Human Rights and the Crimean Human Rights Group recorded more than 300 violations of rights of journalists and bloggers over the six years of occupation of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol," the report said.
The Foreign Ministry emphasized that of 3,000 media outlets officially operating on the peninsula until 2014, only 232 were able to re-register with the occupation authorities. Some media outlets tried to register more than three times, but were refused under formal pretexts. This was the case, in particular, with the Crimean Tatar media holding ATR Channel.
"Russia has actually deprived the population of the opportunity to hear an alternative opinion, blocking signals of Ukrainian radio stations and access to online publications. Not only did Russian propaganda media seize the information space of Crimea, they also spread the word of intolerance, depicting Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars as enemies. We urge the international community to take decisive action against the destruction of freedom of speech and gross violation of human rights by the Russian Federation in the temporarily occupied Crimea," the Foreign Ministry said.
Ukraine Mission to EU on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day added that "Russian propaganda is afraid of truth".