NEW YORK, August 12 (RIA Novosti) - The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called for the immediate release of Andrei Stenin (#freeAndrew), a Rossiya Segodnya photojournalist who is believed to be held by the Ukrainian Security Service.
"We call for the immediate release of Andrei Stenin," CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said, according to the organization’s statement.
"All parties of the conflict in Ukraine must respect the role of journalists and allow them to do their job safely and without fear of retaliation."
CPJ, which is an independent watchdog, based in New York City, works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. It said in the statement it is concerned about Andrei’s safety.
The journalist went missing on August 5 when he was reporting on the conflict in eastern Ukraine, including from the cities of Donetsk and Slaviansk. An unnamed source told RIA Novosti earlier the photojournalist had been abducted by Ukrainian militia and was in the custody of Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) in the city of Zaporozhye. The SBU later denied this allegation.
On August 9, Rossiya Segodnya submitted an application to the Ukrainian Interior Ministry with a request to take urgent measures to find Stenin. Under the pressure of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, the Ukrainian ministry responded three days later saying it was looking into Stenin’s case.
“The request has been received and added to the single register of prejudicial inquiries,” an official at the Donetsk investigation department told RIA Novosti.
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier that Moscow was keeping in touch with authorities in Kiev over Stenin’s vanishing.
Press freedom conditions in Ukraine, especially in the volatile southeastern regions, have steadily deteriorated in recent months, with journalists being detained, attacked, abducted, and killed, according to CPJ research.
Stenin’s abduction is not the first incident of mass-media workers coming into harm’s way in Ukraine. Back in June, a cameraman for Russia’s Channel-1 TV station was fatally wounded in the stomach. Prior to that, a reporter and a sound engineer from Russia’s VGTRK media holding were killed in a mortar attack near Luhansk.