ARTICLE 19 stands in solidarity with Ukrainian people in the face of Russia’s aggression. The Russian Federation’s actions constitute an act of war and a blatant breach of international law and treaties, deserving of unequivocal international condemnation.
Since Russia launched its attack on the 24th of February, we’ve seen the heroic effort and sacrifice of journalists, activists and human rights defenders on the ground in Ukraine, as they strive to document and tell the truth about the situation and suffering on the ground. Their work, under the hardest of conditions, is of crucial importance to the world, and their protection and safety must be guaranteed. We continue to monitor the situation and are working closely with journalists in Ukraine and neighbouring countries, to support their ongoing work and protection needs.
As the conflict escalates, we also condemn the threats of fines and censorship made against independent Russian media and demand that the state respects their freedom to cover the developments independently and without fear of retaliation. The Russian Government’s drive to control the information environment through propaganda and disinformation can only be combatted through ongoing support for the independent media, human rights defenders and civil society on the ground, as they continue to bravely speak out for truth and justice and against the war. We therefore call for immediate release for all protesters in cities across Russia and Belarus, detained in recent days for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
With misinformation increasingly becoming a war tactic, more needs to be done to ensure access to trusted and verified information. We call on officials, media and the public to be vigilant when sharing information about the conflict, so as not to amplify falsehoods and help counter deliberate propaganda campaigns.
We note with concern Russia’s ongoing actions to restrict access to the Internet and censor content online, including by exerting pressure on Internet companies to restrict or remove content regarded as ‘undesirable’. We continue to urge social media companies to be transparent about and resist any blocking orders, legally challenge them and fight back strategically under any pressure from the Russian authorities. At the same time, we caution against any moves designed to limit access to Western digital companies in Russia, which could be detrimental to the civil society organising within the country and prevent people from access to information.
In recent days, the world has witnessed the best and the worst of humanity. Thousands of people have taken to the streets around the world, often at great personal risk, to demonstrate solidarity with Ukrainians. ARTICLE 19 pays tribute to the resilience, sacrifices and defiant strength of the civil society in Ukraine, Russia and other neighbouring countries. For too long, the importance of human rights and a free media has been downplayed in discussions of geopolitical stability. At this dark moment, we urge all governments to reaffirm their commitment to freedom of expression as a cornerstone of peace and democracy around the world.