The deaths of at least four journalists covering the war in Ukraine as of this writing is a sobering reminder of the dangers all journalists face when covering conflict and trying to provide truthful, independent reporting to the world.
Ukrainian photojournalist Yevhenii Sakun was killed in an attack on the Kyiv TV Tower on March 1. American documentary filmmaker Brent Renaud was killed at a checkpoint in Irpin on March13. Irish photojournalist Pierre Zakrzewski and Ukrainian freelancer Oleksandra Kuvshynova, working for Fox News, were killed when their vehicle came under fire in Horenka. Other journalists have been injured.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong extends its condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of the slain journalists, and wishes those wounded a speedy recovery. We also urge all combatants to respect the neutrality of the journalists in the field. Journalists and their newsrooms covering the war in Ukraine should exercise the utmost caution, which includes attention to the safety of their locally hired drivers, translators, freelancers and stringers, who are often the most exposed to danger during conflicts.
We also would urge news organizations not to send or rely on inexperienced journalists or freelancers who lack the proper protective equipment and hostile environment training for covering conflicts.
The FCC does not normally comment on events far from our geographic home, but many of those covering the Ukraine conflict are our friends and colleagues, some who are normally based here in Hong Kong.
Besides the clear and immediate danger of reporting from a war zone, journalists in Russia now face the threat of imprisonment from the Russian government’s new “fake news law” that criminalises truthful reporting with potential prison sentences of up to fifteen years. The FCC is deeply concerned about the implications of such a draconian law, which has led many international news outlets to withdraw staff from Russia, just as we are concerned about such laws elsewhere, and about European Union countries blocking access to state-controlled Russia Today and Sputnik.
While this conflict in Ukraine has produced a tsunami of disinformation on both sides, the FCC believes that societies are best served by a free flow of information, and that informed citizens can determine for themselves fact from falsehood. Shutting down any news outlets sets a dangerous precedent that other authoritarian regimes may use.
We recognize that disinformation swirling on the internet is a problem worldwide. We believe the best solution lies not with new laws, but with more support for legitimate news organizations engaged in truthful, fact-based reporting.