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Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief approves changes to journalist accreditation during martial law

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Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, has approved amendments to the order on the rules governing the accreditation of journalists during martial law. Accreditation will now be valid for 12 months rather than 6, and access to the yellow zone will be facilitated.

Source: Detector Media

Details: Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, by Order No. 51 dated 3 February 2024, approved amendments to Order No. 73 dated 3 March 2022 on the rules for the accreditation of journalists during martial law.

Further to the amendments, accredited media representatives are now permitted to work unaccompanied in public places in the yellow zone, which is freely accessible to civilians, within the limits of the route agreed on by the commander of the respective military group. A permit can be obtained on the basis of an application by an accredited media representative. Applications will be considered within three calendar days of submission.

Individual accredited media representatives may be permitted to work in the red zone only if accompanied by the relevant officials as an exception, “in order to provide the public and the international community with objective information about war crimes committed by the Russian Federation, at the request of Ukraine’s Defence Ministry or the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces by the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine or the relevant commander of the group of troops”.

Media representatives working in the red zone are obliged to submit the photographic and video materials they have collected so that they can be checked for the presence of any restricted information, and to coordinate their distribution and publication with the responsible official.

In addition, Paragraph 1.10, which referred to the immediate termination of the work of a media representative at a military facility “in the event of a situation that may threaten his or her life and health”, has been removed from Annex 1. Oksana Romaniuk, director of the Institute of Mass Information (IMI), had previously explained that this clause had been used by military commanders as an excuse to deny journalists access to the red zone.

It should be noted that Annex 4 of the order states that the Armed Forces and other components of the defence forces are not responsible “for the safety, life and health, return, or life, health or property insurance of public figures whose opinions are listened to by the public (opinion leaders, bloggers, etc.),” and that this is therefore the responsibility of the accredited media representative.

Among other approved amendments, journalists’ accreditation will be granted for a period of up to 12 months rather than 6.

For reference: Amended rules on journalists’ accreditation during martial law have been in effect in Ukraine since 3 March 2023. Commanders, in their areas of responsibility, defined three zones for media representatives. In the red zone, all work by accredited media was completely prohibited, and in the yellow zone, it was only possible to work if accompanied by a press officer. The new press card was valid for up to 6 months.

Members of the Media Movement and Ukrainian and foreign journalists declared after the new rules were introduced that excessive restrictions on the work of the media during martial law were unacceptable. Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists also called for a review of the zoning rules.

The Institute of Mass Information submitted proposals to the Ministry of Defence in November, suggesting improvements to the rules on journalists’ access to the war zone. In December, Yaroslav Yurchyshyn, chairman of the parliamentary committee on freedom of speech, announced that proposals to improve journalists’ access to the combat zone were in preparation.

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