Ukraine: Former journalist Iryna Levchenko illegally arrested in occupied Zaporizhzhia
Iryna Levchenko, a former local journalist and member of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine (NUJU) has been illegally arrested in the occupied part of Zaporizhzhia, southeast of the country. The International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ-EFJ) join their affiliate, the NUJU, in condemning the illegal arrest of Levchenko and urge the authorities of the occupied territories to immediately and unconditionally release her and all other journalists held behind bars.
On 31 May, the NUJU reported the disappearance of former Ukrainian journalist and union member, Iryna Levchenko, and her husband, Oleksandr Levchenko, in the southeastern city of Melitopol, in the occupied part of Zaporizhzhia. There has been no communication with Levchenko since 6 May, according to the information provided by NUJU’s regional branch in Zaporizhzhia.
Levchenko and her husband were held in inhumane conditions in a basement and with limited access to food. The former journalist has recently been transferred to another location, which remains unknown, according to a statement released by the NUJU. The aforementioned statement, which has been echoed by national and regional media, reports that Levchenko and her husband face charges of terrorism.
The former journalist, who recently worked for local newspaper Noviy Den (New Day’ in English) and used to work for the online media Telegraf and newspaper Fakty in Ukraine, was retired and therefore not engaged in any journalistic activity at the time of her arrest.
NUJU President Sergiy Tomilenko said: “The illegal arrest of a former journalist, Iryna Levchenko, and her husband, Oleksandr Levchenko, is the latest challenge posed by the occupying authorities to all human and international norms and laws. It is a cynical disregard for human rights and the professional rights of journalists.”
The union urged the authorities who are occupying Melitopol to observe international norms in the occupied territories in Ukraine and called on the international community to fight for the immediate release of Levchenko and her husband, as well as to restore the rights and freedoms of every citizen.
In a joint statement, the IFJ-EFJ backed the calls of their affiliate, the NUJU, and expressed their grave concern about the arrest of former journalist Levchenko and her husband. The federations reminded the occupying authorities that they are responsible for the lives of journalists and media workers in prison and demanded the immediate and unconditional release of Levchenko and all unfairly imprisoned journalists.
According to the Safety of Journalists Platform of the Council of Europe, there are 14 journalists and media workers held behind bars in Ukraine.