VIENNA (Reuters) - Ukrainian journalists are under attack for doing their jobs, Europe's main rights and democracy watchdog said on Friday, urging law enforcement agencies to support and protect the media.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) released a report citing nearly 300 cases of violence against members of the media in Ukraine since late November during an increasingly violent political crisis.
Murder, assaults, kidnappings, detentions, imprisonments, threats and acts of intimidation were plaguing journalists, the report said, also listing cases in which reporters had their equipment destroyed or television broadcasts shut down.
"The manipulation of the media and the information war we are experiencing has to stop. Failure to do so will fuel the conflict and contribute to an escalation of the crisis," Dunja Mijatovic, representative for media freedom at the OSCE, said in a statement accompanying the 15-page report.
See full report at: http://www.osce.org/fom/118990
Ukraine has been riven by conflict in the run-up to and aftermath of pro-Western activists' toppling of President Viktor Yanukovich in February, which sparked a pro-Russian separatist movement and Moscow's annexation of the Crimean peninsula.
At least eight Ukrainian security personnel died and 18 were wounded in overnight clashes with separatists in the east, three days before a presidential election that the rebels say they will disrupt.
The latest report follows a human rights assessment released last week by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities that found several serious violations in Ukraine.
Full report: http://www.osce.org/odihr/118476?download=true
The review from early March to early April at the request of the Ukrainian interim government highlighted cases of murder, assaults, intimidation and enforced disappearances.
"The victims were primarily pro-Maidan activists and journalists, and those in Crimea also included Ukrainian military personnel and members of the Tatar community," it said. Kiev's Maidan, or Independence Square, was where protests against Yanukovich began late last year.
Russia has criticised last week's report as slanted and blamed mercenary support groups and "self-defence" groups for instigating violence, particularly in eastern Ukraine.
The mission said it detected no increase in intolerance or escalating violence against the Russian-speaking population.
(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)