Open letter: Strong support to Ukrainian and Russian independent journalists is support for peace and democracy

Hem/News/Open letter: Strong support to Ukrainian and Russian independent journalists is support for peace and democracy

Several publishing organisations jointly write about the importance of press freedom even in wars.

Democratic countries must offer independent Russian journalists refuge when they are no longer able to act for free speech in their home country.

It has now been one year since the full-blown Russian invasion of Ukraine commenced. Tens of thousands of people have been killed, while cities and villages have been bombed to the extent that they are unrecognisable. Millions of people have fled. Many of these have come to the EU and been able to stay thanks to the “Temporary Protection Directive”.

Many Ukrainian journalists have also been exposed to attacks that can be considered war crimes. Russian troops have abducted, captured, tortured, and abused journalists, and several have been killed.

Several editorial offices have been occupied and destroyed, TV- and radio towers have been bombed, and media have been exposed to cyber-attacks. The Russian attacks have also been targeted at foreign journalists, who in many cases have also been injured or killed.

Free and independent media – and not least their representatives on the ground – are critical to spreading information about the developments during wars, to the local population and the outside world alike. There have been several initiatives from Swedish and European media organisations to fundraise for salaries, equipment, generators, and public protection equipment for Ukrainian media houses and journalists. This work continues and will be needed even in a stage of reconstruction after the war ends.

Beyond material factors, basic press freedom is a decisive factor for functional news reporting. Unfortunately, the Ukrainian government has decimated this for its media. If Ukraine is to progress in the EU accession process, freedom of the press must be restored.

Similar levers of pressure, unfortunately, do not exist for the abusing country, Russia, where press freedom, de facto, no longer exists. Nearly 20 journalists are imprisoned, over 300 have fled the country, and all independent media have been forced to shut down.

Those Russian journalists who do not comply with the “propaganda machinery” are threatened, harassed, and face long prison sentences. Neither Swedish, nor any other European media organisations, can support their Russian colleagues to operate in their home country.

In our shared opinion, Russian journalists should be able to apply for humanitarian visas in European countries and be offered refuge in democracies that see the value of freedom of opinion and press freedom. They should also be supported to continue their coverage of Russia and Ukraine in exile.

This would result in more Ukrainian and independent Russian journalists being able to do their jobs and report on the war, corruption, mismanagement of public funds, and other failures in society, without fear of repercussion. Strong support for Ukrainian and independent Russian journalists is support for peace and democracy.

Kersti Forsberg, Director, Fojo Media Institute
Erik Halkjaer, President of the Board, Reporters without borders Sweden
Ulrika Hyllert, President or the Board, Swedish Journalist Federation
Kerstin Neld, CEO, The Swedish Magazine Publishers Association
Robert Olsson, CEO, Swedish Publishers Organization
Johan Taubert, CEO, Swedish Media Publishers Association