Statement by representative of the Russian Federation Mr. Fedor Strzhizhovskiy at an informal Arria formula meeting of UNSC member states “Protection of Journalists”
In the concept note for this meeting, you used the phrase, I quote “Free media for societies which are democratic and free”. End of quote. Though it sounds good, it is hardly applicable to present-day reality of the Western world.
I will not journey back in history to recall, for example, the NATO bombing of a TV center in Belgrade in 1999. Let me rather make a point about the situation with freedom of Media and safety of journalists in Western states today. It can be characterized in just two words: informational totalitarianism. The information war that is being waged on Russia is a clear confirmation of that. Russian journalists and Media resources know firsthand what freedom of media is in Western style. Leading Russian media were either shut down or put under sanctions in the European Union and United States. Their main goal is to exclude any nonconformity and undesirable facts that can make readers or viewers doubt the ideological Russophobic narrative that is imposed on them.
American social media act in the same spirit. For a long time already, they have blocked and suspended accounts of Russian media and journalists or subjected them to discriminatory moderation on the pretext of countering propaganda. At the same time, social media permit hatespeech against ethnic Russians, including Russian correspondents. Here is the most odious case: META corporation that owns Facebook and Instagram, allowed users in “some states” to call to violence against Russians. We believe numerous facts of threats and intimidation addressed to Russian media and correspondents in Western states were the direct consequence of this policy.
Taking into account the mass character of political censorship, we believe that online platforms undermine freedom, independence and safety of journalists and fail to comply with relevant national legislations in the area of protecting human rights. European states and the US not only refuse to curb these mass violations, but explicitly encourage them. Thereby international human rights watchdogs, whose mandates envisage monitoring of the situation with freedom of speech and measures to respond to its violations, turn a blind eye even to most blatant cases of censorship and incitement to violence against journalists by IT companies.
Colleagues, this is the freedom of media that you have. It literally borders on state censorship. Being unable to gain the upper hand in a fair competition, and unwilling to listen to alternative views, the West arbitrarily changes the rules of the game by cutting its opponents off the information space. Apparently, this is your rules-based order in action.
Today many talked upon the allegedly guaranteed safety of journalists in Ukraine. Of course, we understand, that today’s Western world can either speak well of Ukraine or not speak at all. But there must be limits to this “eyewashing” after all! We remind that Ukraine had ceased to be safe for journalists, especially those opposed to Ukrainian authorities, long before our special military operation started. Alongside with attempts to tighten up on censorship, Ukrainian human rights organizations recorded repeated cases of extreme right activists blocking TV channels that the Kiev authorities did not welcome. This is what happened to Ukrainian TV channels “ZIK”, “112 Ukraine”, “NASH”, “Inter” and “NewsOne”. There have been lots of publications about reported cases of intimidation of correspondents and putting obstacles in way of their professional activity – all this happening against total permissiveness of Ukrainian law enforcement. This is only a small portion of evidence that confirms the rightless situation of journalists who are not favored by the authorities in Kiev; and that has received corresponding assessment – including by world’s leading NGOs.
Starting from 2014, more than 20 journalists have died in Ukraine. This happened against the backdrop of an armed conflict in Donbas that the West tries to not notice. Among those cases – killings of photo-correspondent Andrei Stenin, cameraman Anatoly Klyan, publicist Oles Buzina, photographer Andrea Rocchelli, journalist Pavel Sheremet, correspondent Igor Kornelyuk, sound engineer Anton Voloshin and others. Unfortunately, there has been no progress in investigating those murders and most cases of violence, to say nothing of violations of freedom of media. It’s a pity that no one had enough courage to touch upon this episode during today’s Arria meeting.
In this context, we cannot fail to mention the fact that Ukraine has developed “fake factories” of unthinkable scope on its territory. Even though main consumers of their content are situated in Western states, these structures also spread disinformation among the population of Ukraine, thus posing a threat to safety and security of ordinary people.
Besides, fakes that are produced by President Zelensky’s “cyberarmy”, as he would call it, cover not only the situation in Ukraine. Today this Russophobic attack targets Russia with every aspect of its life. Tomorrow, these provocations in information space, drafted following Western playbooks, may become a global threat, including for those who order them today. A few words about the latter. We do not doubt that the activity of the so-called Disinformation Governance Board of the United States Department of Homeland Security, which was established on 27 April this year, will be aimed at destabilizing Russian media space. Of course, when and if this project kicks started. This is evidenced by the story with appointment of Nina Jankowicz, who was born in Western Ukraine, as head of this mechanism. Nina Jankowicz is well known as a leader of information campaign whitewashing neo-Nazism in Ukraine. We spoke about it in detail at the Security Council briefing yesterday.
Let me say a few words about the legal dimension of ensuring safety of journalists. It goes without saying that attacks on journalists are unacceptable. International humanitarian law qualifies workers of mass media as a protected category of civilians in armed conflict.
Sometimes opinions are expressed that we need to adopt additional international legal standards in this area and revisit the status of journalists. We believe that the required legal framework is already in place. In this regard, the two priorities in this area are: first, full compliance with the norms of the IHL and second, entrance to the existing international legal mechanisms by states who take no part in them so far.
We are convinced that the task of the Security Council is to focus on issues of ensuring safety of journalists in the context of protection of civilians in armed conflict. Security Council resolutions 1738 (2006) and 2222 (2015) that are the Council's basic documents on this topic contribute meaningfully to ensuring safety of media workers in extreme conditions.