Recently an Italian photojournalist Giorgio Bianchi was detained at the Kiev airport, and three years earlier the same thing happened with another Italian journalist Franco Fracassi.
Sputnik discussed the work of foreign journalists in Ukraine with Marco Bordoni, a lawyer who has been following events in Ukraine for many years, and one of the authors of the free news portal Saker Italia.
Sputnik: The most recent case of repression of journalists in Ukraine is the arrest of Kirill Vyshinsky, the editor-in-chief of RIA Novosti-Ukraine, who is accused of high treason. What do you think about this?
Sputnik: It turns out that in a hybrid war, every journalist is a potential traitor?
Marco Bordoni: It's all obvious: for "treason" it's enough to be recognized in Russia, get an award as a successful journalist and express your opinion.
Those who are familiar with what is happening in Ukraine can easily remember a number of such sad cases, when the state prosecuted its citizens for expressing their independent opinion. There were journalists who criticized Poroshenko and paid with their lives for their opposition. For example, Pavel Sheremet, who died in an explosion in his car on July 20, 2016, and Oles Buzina, who was killed near his home on April 16, 2015. In all these cases, the authorities simply turned a blind eye to what had happened: judicial investigations and proceedings stalled, sometimes the victims would find themselves on trial and the real culprits were not punished.
Sputnik: Saker Italia recently published an article about the detention of an Italian photojournalist at the airport in Kiev. Can you remind us of what exactly happened?
Marco Bordoni: The detention of photojournalist Giorgio Bianchi is an exact repeat of a story from three years ago, when another Italian journalist Franco Fracassi was detained. Both journalists were going to Odessa on the anniversary of the May 2 tragedy. Both were skeptical about the "official version" of the events of February 2014, put forward by the Ukrainian government.
Giorgio Bianchi was at Maidan when, in his own words, unknown people began to shoot at the crowd from the windows of the hotel "Ukraine." Later, while in the Donbass, he interviewed a resident of Odessa who at that time had joined the militia in Donetsk and witnessed the tragic events at the Trade Union Building. He said that he saw how those close to the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, Andrey Parubia, killed the protesters at the Trade Union House. After that conversation, Giorgio might have wanted to carry out his own investigation.
Sputnik: Why do the authorities in Kiev interfere with attempts to get to the truth about what happened on Maidan and in Odessa, and don't allow independent journalists in?
Marco Bordoni: Events on Maidan and in Odessa are sort of a "foundation" for the current authorities in Ukraine. The government of Ukraine, suspected of organizing these events, cannot allow someone like Giorgio and Franco to get into their business. So it's no surprise that both were on the blacklist of Ukrainian services, and, upon appearing at the border, were declared persona non grata and sent home on the first flight. They were lucky that they are citizens of a "friendly" country. If they were Ukrainians or Russians, they would not have gotten off so easily.
Sputnik: Why in Italy, after these two incidents, was there no reaction from either officials or from fellow journalists?
Marco Bordoni: As we know, the two parties that won in the Italian elections are busy preparing a joint government program. The president is trying to establish the limits of what's allowed for the future government. Italy is now in such a position that it is no longer an independent country. One can argue for a long time whether this is good or bad, but the fact is, in my opinion, that Italy is a province. Or a colony, if you prefer. In my opinion, this is a fact.
Sovereign states can participate in negotiations on international agreements, but also refuse to take part in them, but in a province or a colony you can't do that: they are connected with the sovereign state to which they belong. I think the course of my thoughts is clear: the Italian institutions do not decide upon anything themselves and cannot pursue a policy of national interest. Under these conditions, it would be naive to expect any reaction.
Sputnik: Why did the incident with Vyshinsky happen now?
Marco Bordoni: It is necessary to take into account both the internal and external political situation. On the day when Vyshinsky was arrested, Vladimir Putin opened the Crimean Bridge. This historic event caused a flurry of aggression from Russia's opponents, who could only bite their elbows, because on May 15, 2018, Kiev lost all means of pressure on the citizens of Crimea (water, energy, logistics). By arresting Vyshinsky the Ukrainian government simply wanted to inform Russia that Kiev still had "leverage."
Sputnik: Why does a country that "follows European values", as it says it does, restrict media freedom?
Marco Bordoni: "Ukraine is Europe" is one of the most famous slogans from the Maidan events. Let's suppose that this is so. We say that the EU is a model of democracy, high economic development and prosperity, freedom of speech and civilization - that is, the peak to which all the peoples of Europe should strive for. Is it so? Is the European Union in fact like that? In my opinion, no and no. This view is completely wrong, and this cannot be said about Ukraine.
As for journalists, what is happening in Ukraine corresponds to what we see in so-called civilized Europe, where the fight against fake news and hate speech is just a way to silence dissidents. Various laws have been introduced against Russian media that don't disdain illegal methods of pressure. Perhaps, the scope is not the same as in Ukraine, but, in fact, it is the same thing. Ukraine has, apparently, become part of the European system. True, but in the role of an experimental rabbit.
The views and opinions expressed by Marco Bordoni are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.