RFE/RL journalists Andriy Dubchak and Vladyslav Yesypenko, detained in Russia-annexed Crimea, were named as part of a group of Ukrainian media members winning the prestigious Free Media Award 2022 for their coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The Norway-based Fritt Ord Foundation said on August 19 that a total of six Ukrainian photographers, journalists and media will receive the award together, “in recognition of their efforts to document the suffering and challenges faced by the Ukrainian people due to enemy destruction and war crimes committed by Russian troops .”
The foundation called Yesypenko’s detention “a striking example of the persecution of journalists trying to cover Crimea, which was forcibly annexed by Russia in 2014. Weeks later, the Kremlin backed pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Yesypenko, a Russian-Ukrainian dual citizen who works as a freelancer on RFE/RL’s Crimea.Realities project, was sentenced to six years in prison after a closed trial in Crimea in February for allegedly providing information to the Ukrainian secret service collected. Before his arrest, he had worked in Crimea for five years, reporting on social and environmental issues in the peninsula.
WATCH: RFE/RL freelance correspondent Vladyslav Yesypenko made detailed allegations of torture during detention in court in September 2021.
Yesypenko testified during a court hearing that the Russian authorities “want to discredit the work of freelance journalists who really want to show what’s really happening in Crimea.”
In May he received the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award in the United States, given to honor writers who are prisoners of conscience.
On August 18, a Russian-controlled court in Crimea reduced Yesypenko’s sentence by one year.
RFE/RL President and CEO Jamie Fly thanked the Fritt Ord Foundation and the ZEIT Foundation for recognizing what he described as “the extraordinary courage Vlad has shown in his coverage of Russian-occupied Crimea.” .
“Up until his incarceration, Vlad helped open the world’s eyes to the daily cruelty of life under occupation. He should be returned home to his family immediately,” Fly said in an Aug. 19 statement.
The Fritt Ord Foundation called Dubchak, a longtime correspondent for RFE/RL’s Ukrainian service, “one of the most important sources of information about life on the front lines” in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region.
Other winners include AP photographer Mstyslav Chernov and Yevheniy Maloletka, a freelance multi-media photojournalist. Author Natalia Gumenyuk and the online newspaper Zaborona are also in the group.
On February 24, Moscow launched an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. In recent weeks it has intensified its bombing of areas in the east in order to consolidate and expand its hold on areas where the Separatists have strongholds.
The press prizes of the Free Media Awards are intended for journalists from Eastern Europe and are awarded as part of a cooperation program between the Fritt Ord Foundation from Norway and the ZEIT Foundation Ebelin and Gerd Bucerius from Germany.
The award ceremony will take place on October 17th at the Norwegian Nobel Institute.