UPDATE 24 April 12:40 PM EAST from Vice News:
VICE News is delighted to confirm that our colleague and friend Simon Ostrovsky has been safely released and is in good health. We would like to thank everyone for their support during this difficult time. Out of respect for Simon and his family’s privacy, we have no further statement at this time.
Simon Ostrovsky, a Vice News journalist has been held hostage by pro-Russian insurgents in the eastern town of Slaviansk. He’s been extensively covering the crisis in Ukraine for several weeks, starting in Crimea and then moved to eastern Ukraine.
Ostrovsky haven’t been seen since early Tuesday after following the pro-Russian insurgents as they started occupying government buildings. However, Vice News just confirmed Ostrovsky has been freed.
The news of his capture was confirmed by the insurgents on Wednesday and explained they were holding him according to ‘’war rules’’.
The same pro-Russian insurgents are playing in a grey area concerning the stated Law of Armed Conflict, considering the fact that they hold Ostrovsky under ‘’war rules’’ but aren’t clearly identified as lawful combatants themselves.
Stella Khorosheva, a spokeswoman for the pro-Russia insurgents, explained on Wednesday that Ostrovsky is currently held at the local occupied Ukrainian security service building. She also confirmed that he was fine and was being held captive under suspicion of bad activities.
Khorosheva later mentioned that Ostrovsky was suspected of spying for a far-right Ukrainian nationalist party called the Right Sector and other enemy groups.
Vice News confirmed on Twitter that they were aware and working ’’to ensure the safety and security of our friend and colleague.’’
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) also voiced concerns on Wednesday about Ostrovsky’s capture. According to the RIA NOVOSTI, Dunja Mijatović, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media has also expressed her worries about the safety of journalists in eastern Ukraine.
“I remain deeply concerned about the ongoing negative pattern in relation to journalists’ safety in Ukraine,” she said.
“I call on all those responsible to stop harassing and attacking journalists and let them do their job. Simon Ostrovsky should be released immediately,” she added.
The safety of journalists in eastern Ukraine is vital to allow the international community some uncensored news. If the pro-Russian insurgents starts detaining all journalists who are not on Russia’s side, we could possibly witness the old-Soviet media censorship thus creating bias news in favor of the insurgents.
Social media is a powerful tool against censorship and could possibly counter the insurgents’ efforts. However, in this case, both pro-Russians and pro-Ukrainians are strongly sending subjective messages that makes the social media more of an individual news provider than the typical media.