This is published in response to Ukraine’s banning 388 journalists and media figures, including 3 BBC journalists, from the country. Then, after swift intervention from the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Judith Gough, Ambassador to Ukraine, promptly unbanning the BBC journalists.
Yet it was a different story for me when I was deported from Ukraine, and banned for 3 years, last July, while reporting for RT.
The UK’s ambassador to Ukraine at that time, Simon Smith, never once responsed to my messages – infact he didn’t even bother to come to the meeting in Kiev at my first deportation, sending his secretary instead.
After my 2nd deportation, and subsequent banning, I pursued a complaint against Ukraine, via the UK’s FCO – many emails which led to nothing. Here’s the key email, and the key part emboldened on what was the FCO’s position on assisting in the banning of British journalists … or at least until it was BBC journalists.
to me, Viktoria.Lvovs., Natalia.Rybak, Kate.Willmott, Helen.Askew2, Gavin.Cook, Ross.Allen, Hema.Mistry-Pa., Martin.Day2, Alasdair.Hamil.
I took over from David Hinchon in mid August and have been have been briefed by Hema Mistry-Patel on your case. I hope you are safe and well.
I have seen your most recent email to Hema Mistry-Patel of 29 September in which you provided a link to video footage of your detention. Your allegations are concerning and this goes some way to demonstrating the mistreatment you experienced. But in order to pursue your case effectively I would be grateful for more specific written responses to the questions posed by David in his email to you of 15 August. I appreciate that thinking about this in detail may be distressing, but being able to answer the questions David set out is important.
• You stated that a Ukrainian soldier told you he could ’not guarantee my life’ – Please can you provide more specific information about the nature of this incident? In particular, please can you advise us of the following:
1) When and where did this incident happen? Was this threat made on just one occasion or were there other threats made on different occasions? Were these threats made in English or Ukrainian?
2) Were there any witnesses to these threats?
3) Did you report these threats to anyone?
4) Was this threat accompanied by any physical mistreatment?
• You raised concerns about your basic human rights – You state that you were denied access to sanitation and water facilities whilst in detention. Please can you advise of the following:
1) Where were you being detained?
2) Were you given access to sanitation and water facilities on initially being detained?
3) At what point during your detention were you denied access to sanitation and water facilities?
4) Were you provided with any liquids or foods during your detention? If so, what were you given and at what frequency?
5) Did you ask to be provided with food and water? What response did you receive from the authorities?
You state that Vadym, the local journalist (your co-detainee), was savagely beaten by Ukrainian soldiers. When did this incident happen? Were you witness to the beating? What injuries did Vadym sustain as a result of the beating? Do you know about his current state of health? Is he currently in detention? This is obviously very concerning.
I also wanted to check whether you were physically mishandled in any way so we can establish how best to support you.
As you will appreciate it is important for us to obtain as full a testimony as we can from you in relation to the mistreatment allegations and to that end I would very much appreciate your cooperation in answering the questions above.
• I understand that you were denied any representation or contact with the British Consul – Can you confirm whether you were told of your right for the Embassy to be notified, and if so, whether you asked for the Embassy to be informed? We can consider raising this issue for you with the authorities as they have a duty under International law to inform you of your right to consular assistance.
I can see that the travel ban is having a significant impact on your working life. But I regret that we cannot intervene with the Ukrainian authorities on this, just as we would not expect the Ukrainian authorities to intervene in UK immigration matters. As you will appreciate immigration issues are strictly matters for Sovereign states. I therefore recommend you engage a local lawyer, well versed in Ukrainian immigration law who can give you the appropriate advice in how to pursue lifting of the ban with the Ukrainian authorities. I understand you have already been given a list of English speaking lawyers who may be able to assist. But let me know if you would like to me resend it.
Travel to the Donetsk Region
As David has done in the past, I would like to underline that FCO Travel Advice for Ukraine, the latest of which is here, advises against all travel to the Donetsk region. I recognise that being in the Donetsk area is integral to your working life. But you must understand in turn that your presence there, in an area for which we advise against all travel, makes it harder for us to provide you with consular assistance. I would therefore urge you to recognise the significant risk you are exposing yourself to when deciding to remain in the Region, or in deciding whether to return should you have already left.
I would be grateful if you could confirm to me that you would still like us to pursue your mistreatment with the Ukrainian authorities. If you do, I look forward to receiving thorough responses to the questions above.
Carol Anne Ireland