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article imageOp-Ed: Journalists in Ukraine risk their lives while the West watches Special

By Lonna Lisa Williams     Feb 22, 2014 in World
Kiev - A young journalist died of a gunshot wound and over 180 were injured as they struggled to bring news about Ukraine's protests. As Ukraneians resist Russia's domination and seek to join the European Union, what is the West doing?
I'll never forget being attacked by the Turkish police in Istanbul. It was a lull in the Gezi Park protests against Erdogan's Islamist government. Tourists had come out on the sunny Sunday to shop and stroll along Istiklal Street, which stretches from the Tunnel subway to Taksim Square and is surrounded by stately old buildings, foreign consulates, and modern shopping centers. With no warning, police suddenly opened fire on the peaceful tourists, using the water cannon from an attack vehicle while a battalion in riot-proof metallic suits swept into the crowd behind see-through shields. Others fired tear gas canisters from hand-held guns.
My Turkish husband Omer and I had come to Taksim to meet an American and his Turkish partner for tea, and we were shocked as we watched the attack that happened in the street below our cafe. I was able to record it, and Omer and I waited to make our way back down Istiklal Street toward home. When the Gezi Park protests had first started, it seemed fun to witness them first-hand, but as I walked down graffiti-labeled streets and watched a teenager break up rocks to hurl at police, I thought it was not much fun to witness people so desperate to resist their government's dictatorial controls that they resorted to violence. I saw a young girl, wearing a black helmet and gas mask, uneasily clasp the arm of her boyfriend who carried a "Her Yer Taksim" ("Everywhere is Taksim") protest sign. I saw an older man, who looked like a university professor, snap photos with his cellphone as a well-outfitted professional news team from Germany hung back near a building.
I didn't look like a journalist (whom the Turkish police were especially targeting then and recently, as this dramatic Reuters photo shows). Just as I thought Omer and I would safely pass toward the subway station, crashing sounds echoed on the buildings around us as police attacked again. Tourists and protesters fled a wave of tear gas as the footsteps of pursuing police hammered on cobblestones. The manager of a small, street-side hotel motioned for us to come into his lobby. He offered us water to wash our faces and hands. Even though I did not get directly hit with the tear gas spray, it hung in the air as thick as smoke, and I was sick for days after breathing it. I still have nightmares filled with smoke and those echoing, crashing sounds.
In Ukraine, over 180 journalists have been injured while covering the protests there. Vyacheslav Veremiy died of a gunshot injury in Kiev on Wednesday. After being dragged from the taxi taking him to Independence Square, he was beaten and then shot in the abdomen when he showed his press card to his attackers. He was 33.
At least 77 people have died in Ukraine since the massive protests against Russian control, and thousands have been injured. The world has seen images from Kiev that look like the Apocalypse. Priests minister to the wounded and dying and even lines of police. Many Ukrainians remember obtaining their independence when the Soviet Union broke up 25 years ago and don't want to be its puppet again. Ukrainians in the west want to be part of the European Union while the industrialized east wants an easy money bailout from gas-rich Russia. Although the Ukrainian president has fled Kiev, it is unclear where Ukraine will go from here. It seems that Europe and America are just watching the violence unfold as brave reporters risk their lives to get out the news that Russia would like to repress.
Today, I sat in a restaurant in northeast China where I'm now teaching English and wept as I read an email from Reporters without Borders, asking for my help. My grandmother taught me Russian as a child, and I taught English in Russia for six months, stopping briefly in Kiev on my way to Turkey. The people of Kiev seemed more European-minded than the Russians, more open, kinder. Why must they stand alone?
If you want to help protect a reporter in Ukraine, visit the Reporters without Borders website and donate a little for much-needed protective equipment. A journalist shouldn't have to die to tell the truth to an indifferent world.
An injured reporter is escorted in Kiev  Ukraine
An injured reporter is escorted in Kiev, Ukraine
Reporters without Borders
Well-oufitted  professional German journalists hang back by a building in Istanbul during the Gezi P...
Well-oufitted, professional German journalists hang back by a building in Istanbul during the Gezi Park freedom protests
The police attack vehicle that chased tourists in Taksim and shot pepper spray
The police attack vehicle that chased tourists in Taksim and shot pepper spray
Police hide behind their shields in Taksim
Police hide behind their shields in Taksim
Police battle protesters at Taksim Square in Istanbul
Police battle protesters at Taksim Square in Istanbul
Turkish Protests News
Lonna Lisa Williams at the frozen Volga River in Samara  Russia  2011
Lonna Lisa Williams at the frozen Volga River in Samara, Russia, 2011
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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