schallenberg2_BULENT KILICAFP via Getty Images_ukrainejournalist Bulent Kilic/AFP via Getty Images

Defending Democracy’s Defenders

Free, independent, and pluralistic media are as necessary to democracy as elections, parliaments, and independent judges. But those who deliver the facts to inform citizens are increasingly coming under attack – and not only in war zones.

VIENNA – When independent journalists report on the full-scale Russian military invasion of Ukraine, they show the reality of war. They show its barbarism, its cruelty, and the humanitarian tragedies that inevitably accompany it. They provide viewers with accurate reporting on the developments on the ground and contribute to the collection of war-crimes evidence for future accountability mechanisms.

For this, journalists and media workers often pay a heavy – or even the ultimate – price. On September 19, 54-year-old Ukrainian journalist Zhanna Kyseliova was kidnapped from her home in the city of Kakhovka. On May 30, 32-year-old French journalist Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff was killed while riding with a humanitarian transport full of fleeing civilians. Two weeks earlier, Oleksii Vorontsov, an engineer of public broadcaster UA: Kherson was abducted. In mid-March, Fox News cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski and his Ukrainian colleague and journalist Oleksandra Kuvshynova were killed when their vehicle came under fire. Around the same time, Ukrainian photojournalist Maks Levin went missing and was later found killed near Kyiv.

At least eight journalists and other media workers have been killed while carrying out their duties since Russia launched its war of aggression in Ukraine in February. Many more have been wounded, abducted, and mistreated.