From May 1 to May 3, Ethiopian capital city Addis Ababa had been hosting an international conference as part of the World Press Freedom Day celebration. It was organized by the UNESCO, the government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and The African Union Commission. The main theme of the event was the mass media’s role in the election process and democracy.
Russia was represented at the conference by Alexander Malkevich, the chairman of Russian Public Chamber of information society development, mass media and mass communication, as well as the President of the Foundation for the Protection of National Values. During his speech at the plenary session, he raised a question about the case of Kirill Vyshinskiy, the head of the Ukrainian news agency RIA “Novosti Ukraina”.
“It will be exactly a year on May 15 since journalist Kirill Vyshinskiy has been sent behind bars for practicing his profession! Dozens of journalists face prosecution in the Ukraine only for doing their job and voicing their opinion. The International News Safety Institute has officially recognized the Ukraine the most dangerous country for the journalists to work in. According to Freedom House, out of 300 cases of violation of jounalists’ rights in the Ukraine only 4 were brought to court in 2014. Since then, the situation has not changed much. It all happens in Europe!” Alexander Malkevich emphasized.
He added addressing the UNESCO leaders, “Not somewhere else, right next to you!”
The Podolsk district court of Kyiv hearing on Kirill Vyshinskiy’s case was supposed to be held on May 2, yet had to be postponed as the journalist had not been brought from the detention centre “due to the guards’ fault”.
“The Ukraine is once again hitting the bottom. Those who attempt to honestly carry out their professional duties are surrounded by the scorched-earth policies,” the head of the Fund commented.
Alexander Malkevich admitted that Harlem Désir, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, was regularly raising his concerns on social media about the journalists’ rights violation, especially across the post-Soviet states. Yet, this type of weapon against the perpetrators who literally “put their hands on” the journalists doesn’t work.
Therefore, the social activist urged to establish an international tribunal for the “media enemies”, “Let the local authorities and the security forces, involved in illegal prosecution of the journalists, face court for their actions with the full set of measures like blocked bank accounts, sanctions’ imposition and visa or visa extension refusal.
The idea was hotly supported by most conference members but there were some who spoke against the establishment of such a tribunal. As per Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in the UK, such a tribunal court “would be excessive as the West was already busy imposing sanctions on whoever they deemed necessary”.
As a result, a heated debate ensued between Alexander Malkevich and Jeremy Hunt.
“The problem is that none of our western ‘friends’ want to take responsibility for their actions. At the same time, the idea was supported by the ‘third world’ countries: Asia and Africa voted for it. Not because their governments would use this tribunal to fight against the journalists but because they want to protect the journalists’ rights that are breached in ‘civilized’ countries,” Malkevich explained.
Besides, Alexander Malkevich highlighted that the discussions of conference panels revealed that Africa was flooded by the seminars and “trainings” offered by western NGOs. For instance, «AFRIQUE Média Cybersécurité» is a training programme for over 500 journalists and representatives of civil society in 11 West African countries. Its goal is to create a net of activists to promote the values of the West.
“But the Ethiopians remember well who was helping them for many years, including the time when there were heavy wars with their neighbours. And they ask us to “balance” Western projects with ours. Now all we need to do is to start,” said the public man.
During his visit to Ethiopia, Alexander Malkevich met with the Russian ambassador to Ethiopia and the representative of the Russian Federation at the African Union in Addis Ababa, Yevgeny Terekhin, and (together with colleagues from the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Communications of the Russian Federation and the Embassy of Russia in Ethiopia) had a short conversation with the country’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed Ali.