Staged Assassination Unnerves Ukrainian Journalists

Ukrainian journalists have been left puzzled and feeling uneasy since the Ukrainian security service (SBU) staged the assassination of Russian reporter Arkady Babchenko, a U.S. media watchdog says.

Ukrainian authorities have said the elaborate operation was designed to foil a Russian plot to assassinate Babchenko and other members of the Ukrainian media. 

The Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday that Ukrainian media staffers were upset by SBU’s revelation that it had discovered a “hit list” of 47 journalists, bloggers and activists who may allegedly be targeted by assassins. But veteran journalists told CPJ that while they were perturbed by the news of the list, they were used to being under threat.

Many questioned why the SBU would go through all the trouble to protect Babchenko when it has yet to solve the daylight car bombing that killed Russian journalist Pavel Sheremet in 2016.

“I feel the same as I felt before the Babchenko case,” TV reporter Nastya Stanko told CPJ. “I didn’t feel safe then, and I don’t feel safe now.”

Stanko said the Babchenko case had, in fact, made things worse for journalists.

“When some journalists spoke their mind and said journalists shouldn’t work with security services, Babchenko himself said that he wished for these ‘betrayers’ to have a killer knocking on their door,” she said. “I think we are now at a greater risk of that than before.”

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