Propaganda 'alive and well' amid Ukraine crisis

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Media captionIn April, Gabriel Gatehouse reported on journalists targeted in east Ukraine

Governments should stop the "uncontrolled proliferation of propaganda," says a leading figure in the European security body, OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe).

Dunja Mijatovic, the OSCE's Representative on Freedom of the Media, thinks the Ukraine crisis in particular has accentuated the problem.

The conflict there, she told the BBC, was having an impact on freedom of media far beyond its borders, notably in Russia and Azerbaijan.

The OSCE has a number of different monitoring teams at work on the ground in Ukraine, but Ms Mijatovic has a much wider mandate - the whole of the OSCE region, which stretches from Vancouver to Vladivostok.

Her criticism tends to be much more outspoken than many of her OSCE colleagues.

Russia concern

Introducing a new report on the state of media freedoms in the OSCE region, Ms Mijatovic said that since the Ukraine conflict began a year ago "contempt on a massive scale" had been shown towards journalists and journalism ethics.

Image copyright OSCE/Micky Kroell
Image caption Ms Mijatovic says governments should "get out of the news business"

"My reports detail it all," she said. "The killings, beatings, harassment of every kind."

Seven journalists have been killed in Ukraine over the past year, according to the report, and at least 170 attacked and injured, although some put that figure much higher.

Some 80 reporters have been abducted and detained.

But it is not just in Ukraine. Dunja Mijatovic said the problem was widespread and she expressed particular concern about the situation in Russia and Azerbaijan.

Russia, she said, had been a "constant" concern for many years, but now the crackdown on independent media in Russia appeared to be getting worse, partly because of the effect of the situation in Ukraine.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption A freedom of speech rally in Russia, a country that particularly worries Ms Mijatovic

Growing violence

Her report details a number of violent attacks against reporters, including the death of journalist and blogger Timur Kuashev, who covered events in the North Caucasus.

Following a September attack on a BBC team in Astrakhan, Ms Mijatovic "condemned the growing violence against journalists in Russia."

"I said that we were witnessing a clear sign of harassment of free media in Russia," she said.

"This incident was the latest in a spate of recent attacks against journalists who investigated issues related to the conflict in eastern Ukraine."

Ms Mijatovic, who is from Bosnia-Herzogovina, fears that 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, state propaganda in the media is "alive and well".

"Stop corrupting the profession," she urged governments, "stop belching propaganda - and get out of the news business."