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Persecution, abduction, torture and violence under Russian occupation: Ukrainian journalists testify

Updated: May 2

On 4 May, as part of UNESCO's World Press Freedom Day in Santiago de Chile, the Public Interest Journalism Lab and The Reckoning Project will show a short documentary about Ukrainian journalists who witnessed and survived war crimes. The screening will be followed by a discussion with the protagonists of the film, The Reckoning Project’s co-founder Nataliya Gumenyuk and Chilean journalist Andrea Moletto Rodriguez.

WPFD 2024 Global Conference

Chile, 4 May 2024, 18:00-19:00

Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral, Room 1 (SALA 1A)

Language of the session: English, Spanish

The information is also available in Spanish.

Over the course of the two-year full-scale war in Ukraine, Russia’s army has violated multiple provisions of the Geneva Conventions. These crimes are being committed daily in the Russian-occupied territories and in order to hide the truth the occupation authorities systematically repress freedom of the press and expression. Independent journalists have become one of their primary targets and have faced persecution, abduction, torture and violent death. 

On 4 May, we will show a documentary about Ukrainian journalists, who became the witnesses of the war crimes and faced persecution under occupation. Together with The Reckoning Project’s co-founder, Ukrainian journalist Nataliya Gumenyuk, they will join for a discussion and give direct accounts of the crimes they survived and their fight for freedom in the line of duty. The discussion will be moderated by a prominent Chilean journalist Andrea Moletto Rodriguez.

The journalists featured in the film, mainly local reporters who worked in occupied areas of Ukraine, all faced arrest, torture, or psychological pressure precisely due to their journalistic activities. Their stories vividly illustrate how working as an independent journalist at the onset of the invasion became nearly impossible as the occupation became entrenched. They eventually escaped the Russian-controlled territories, but continue to report on the horrors of the occupation.

Oleh Baturin was a journalist in Kakhovka, the site of one of Ukraine’s most important energy

sources – the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Station – when Russia occupied the city. He was arrested and faced torture but eventually was able to escape the Russia-occupied region. He continued his journalistic activities, mainly being focused on the reporting of life under the occupation, and  Russia’s explosion of the Kakhovka Dam in June 2023 – the single largest environmental attack of the war. 

Anzhela Slobodian worked as a correspondent for Ukraine TV and Radio Broadcasting Company, and after the full-scale invasion continued providing news coverage and broadcasting live under her name from the occupied city of Kherson until her illegal detention on 5 July 2022. Slobodian was held captive for a month but was eventually released and fled the region. In February 2023, she testified in the People’s Court in The Hague, where she spoke about Russian captivity, and crimes and violations of journalists' rights committed in Kherson. 

The Reckoning Project: Ukraine Testifies is an initiative of Ukrainian and international reporters, analysts and lawyers to document war crimes and create appealing stories that aim to provide historical documentation of the Russian war in Ukraine. Ukraine-based journalists and researchers collect testimonies of witnesses of the alleged war crimes, neutrally record them in accordance with a methodology that makes them applicable for use in litigation. The analysts verify them, while Ukrainian writers and documentary filmmakers create multimedia content based on the testimonies.

Nataliya Gumenyuk is a Ukrainian author and journalist specializing in conflict reporting. She is CEO and co-founder of The Public Interest Journalism Lab and The Reckoning Project devoted to the documentation of war crimes. Gumenyuk reported from nearly 60 countries. Since the start of the Russian war against Ukraine in 2014, Nataliya reported from the field: Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk regions. After the full-scale invasion, she regularly writes for The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Rolling Stone, Die Zeit, Vanity Fair, and The New York Times. Gumenyuk is the author of the books “The Lost Island. The Tales From The Occupied Crimea”, "Maidan Tahrir. In Search Of The Lost Revolution”, and “The Scariest Days of My Life. Dispatches of The Reckoning Project”. She was co-founder and from 2015 to 2019 ran an independent TV channel Hromadske. Nataliya is a Member of the Independent Media Council, as well as the Council for Freedom Of Speech Under the President of Ukraine.

Andrea Moletto Rodriguez is a well-known Chilean radio host with an illustrious career spanning over 25 years. As the host of two widely popular current affairs programs on Radio Futuro and a daily talk show on the independent channel Vía X, she regularly interviews key figures in Chile. Her contributions extend to prominent Chilean media outlets, including La Segunda, La Tercera, and Paula magazine, and she served as the first female editor of The Clinic magazine. Moletto Rodriguez's visit to Ukraine in the summer of 2023 facilitated by the Public Interest Journalism Lab garnered significant attention in Chile, contributing to the dissemination of insights on international affairs to her large and engaged audience.

The visit is supported by UNESCO and the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in the framework of the Human Rights in Action Program implemented by Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union.


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