Human Rights Watch Condemns the Detention of Journalists by Ukrainian Provisional Government

The Ukrainian provisional government is attempting to regain control of the flow of information in the worst possible way: by cracking down on journalists.

Human Rights Watch has issued a statement on their website condemning the arbitrary detention of journalists in Ukraine and demanding the release of those currently being held. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has also urged Kiev authorities to release the Russian journalists. Their stance places the U.S. government in an awkward position.

On May 18, the Ukrainian National Guard detained two Life News reporters, Marat Saichenko and Oleg Sidyakin, near Kramotorsk. U.S. officials backed the Ukrainian government’s decision, parroting the claim that those detained were assisting the rebels militarily. Kiev has accused the journalists of transporting anti-aircraft missiles in their trunk, and claimed that they were not journalists at all.

A far more plausible explanation for their arrest is the fact that these were the same journalists that exposed the fact that U.N. helicopters were being employed in the military crackdown against protesters in the east.

The U.N. has since issued a statement condemning the fact that the markings were left on the aircraft during the mission. Note that they didn’t object to the use of their aircraft in military operations, just the markings (shooting political dissidents is fine, but don’t tarnish our image).

Planting anti-aircraft missiles on the reporters was a clumsy move. After the provisional government’s cover-up of the massacre in Odessa, and their involvement in the sniper shootings in Kiev nothing they claim can be taken seriously, and the idea that a pair of established journalists would go rouge, risking their lives and careers to transport two Polish missile launchers to rebels right after breaking a major story that damaged Kiev’s image, is absurd. The fact that even the mainstream media isn’t willing to risk their credibility by pushing that angle speaks for itself.

Come to think of it, the mainstream media isn’t talking about this scandal at all. That’s convenient.

Marat Saichenko has been working as photo correspondent and cameraman for almost 15 years, and has reported on the conflicts in Syria, and Libya.

A British journalist who was reporting for RT was also arrested this week, but was quickly released after Britain applied diplomatic pressure.

UPDATE May 27th: Marat Saichenko and Oleg Sidyakin were quietly released this past weekend. There was no mention of the missile launchers that they were accused of transporting. The fact that the Ukrainian provisional government initially went so far as to release footage of the reporters handcuffed on the ground with weapons next to them demonstrates Kiev’s willingness to completely fabricate stories to cover their tracks.

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