10:27 12.03.2019

Ukrainian Ambassador on Wehrschutz's entry ban: He did not abide by Ukrainian legislation

3 min read
Ukrainian Ambassador on Wehrschutz's entry ban: He did not abide by Ukrainian legislation

Ambassador of Ukraine to Austria Oleksandr Scherba says that the ban on Austrian journalist Christian Wehrschutz's entry into Ukraine has nothing to do with the freedom of speech.

"I clearly stated that the Wehrschutz case has nothing to do with the issue of the freedom of speech," the European Pravda publication quoted the ambassador as saying after his visit to Austria's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The diplomat mentioned that a delegation of well-known Austrian journalists many of whom are known for their criticism of Ukraine visited Donbas, eastern Ukraine, a week ago.

"They had no problem with entering Ukraine or accreditation in the Joint Forces Operation zone [in Donbas]. Those journalists simply have an elementary respect for Ukraine and its legislation. There are no other requirements. Mr. Wehrschutz didn't abide by the requirements and was punished very mildly from the point of view of Ukrainian legislation interpretation," the ambassador said.

As reported, on March 8, 2019, the EU press secretary told Interfax-Ukraine that the EU was aware of the decision by the Ukrainian authorities to ban Wehrschutz from entering Ukraine and expected that such decisions would be taken in accordance with fundamental rights and freedoms, including the European Convention on Human Rights.

Earlier, First Deputy Head of the Rada Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information Policy Olha Chervakova reported that the SBU Security Service of Ukraine had prohibited head of the Ukrainian bureau of the Austrian ORF TV channel Christian Wehrschutz from entering the country because of the "threat he poses to national security."

The SBU later confirmed reports that Wehrschutz was banned from entering Ukraine for the period of one year.

"The reason for this decision was the need to ensure the journalist's safety. We recall that Christian Wehrschutz noted in his interview about existing threats to his life in Ukraine," the SBU said on March 9.

Thus, to avoid possible provocations during the Austrian journalist's stay in Ukraine, "the SBU, in accordance with the law, decided to ban him from entering."

The Ukrainian ambassador on March 11 was summoned to Austria's Foreign Ministry to talk with Secretary General for Foreign Affairs Johannes Peterlik.

"Peterlik demanded that the entry ban imposed by the Ukrainian authorities, as well as on the accreditation of ORF correspondent Christian Wehrschutz in Ukrainian-controlled territory of the conflict zone [in Donbas, eastern Ukraine]," the ministry said on Monday.

In addition, the diplomat demanded evidence of charges against the journalist.

"We are deeply concerned about the actions of the Ukrainian government. This is an unacceptable unilateral act of censorship, incompatible with the values and principles of the Association Agreement with the EU," the Austrian Foreign Ministry's press service quoted the official as saying.

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