MOSCOW, August 9 (RIA Novosti) -Ukrainian authorities should explain the reasons behind the detention of Andrei Stenin, the International Information News Agency Rossiya Segodnya’s photographer, Tanya Lokshina, Russia Program Director at Human Rights Watch told RIA Novosti.
“If the missing correspondent was in fact detained by Ukrainian forces or pro-governmental armed groups, the Ukrainian authorities should immediately explain the reasons behind his detention and either ensure prompt release, or, if there are credible grounds for bringing charges against him, bring him before a judge so he can be charged and released pending an investigation,” Lokshina said.
She added that Ukrainian authorities must also make sure that Stenin has the full protection of the law, and give him access to a lawyer and consular officers.
According to the human rights advocate, “failure to provide information on the whereabouts and fate of anyone deprived of their liberty by agents of the state, or those acting with its acquiescence, may constitute an enforced disappearance.”
An informed source told RIA Novosti earlier on Friday that Stenin, who went missing in eastern Ukraine on August 5, is currently being held by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) in the Zaporizhia Region in southern Ukraine. A spokesman for the local SBU office denied such reports.
Russia's Embassy to Ukraine is looking into the circumstances of the incident. The office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media is also checking the information about the disappearance of Stenin.
Director-General of the International Information News Agency Rossiya Segodnya Dmitry Kiselev urged the release of the agency’s photographer and expressed hope that his foreign colleagues would also urge the release of the journalist.
The OSCE press freedom watchdog has long been monitoring the deteriorating media environment and journalists’ security in the eastern Ukraine. It has registered more than a dozen of media freedom violations since the conflict broke out in mid-April.
In June, a cameraman for Russia’s Channel-1 TV station was killed in Ukraine's east. Prior to that, a reporter and a sound engineer from Russia’s VGTRK media holding were killed in a mortar attack near Luhansk.