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13.12.2001 | Volodymir Pritula, Simferopol

At last the intimidation of journalists may be punished

   

Officials from the Prosecutor’s Office of the Crimea confirmed that a criminal case was started against Saki mayor Volodymir Shvetsov, who threatened a journalist. This is the first case in the Crimea, where a top official may be punished for the pressure on mass media.

We have already written about the scandal, which burst in the Crimea after making public some audio record by the Crimean Association of independence journalists. This record was made by Mykaylo Shishliannikov, a correspondent of a regional newspaper in the town of Saki. The cassette contained threats to the journalist on the side of Volodymir Shvetsov, the town mayor and a member of the communist party. The official, who did not like critical publications of Shishliannikov, promised the journalist ‘to maim’ him, ‘to starve’ him and, finally, ‘to destroy’ him. Then M. Shishliannikov turned for protection to law-enforcing organs.

As Anatoliy Titarchuk, the head of the press service of the Crimean prosecutor’s office, informed radio ‘Liberty’, the conducted check showed that in the Article by M. Shishliannikov of 17 July this year really contained some criticism of Saki mayor, and on 20 July at the selector conference Svetsov threatened the journalist with physical violence, using bad language. This served the reason to start the criminal case according to Article 129 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine -- ‘Threat to murder’.

Since the mentioned events happened before 1 September, then, as the prosecutor’s office considers, the felony is not covered by Article 171 of the new Criminal Code, which qualifies such felonies as ‘persecution of a journalist for fulfilling professional duties and for criticism’. Yet, M. Shishliannikov considers that there are enough suitable articles to punish the local authorities. The journalist intends to prove at the trial that the threats of the mayor remained actual also after 1 September, that is after the new Criminal Code came into effect.

Meanwhile Volodymir Shvetsov asserts that he have never intimidated Mykhaylo Shishliannikov, practically does not know him, never met him and never spoke with him by phone. The mayor is sure that all this scandal is an intrigue of his political rivals and local criminal groups.

Anyway the investigation continues, in which security service and militia take part. If the case ever comes to court, this will be the first case in the Crimea, and maybe in the whole Ukraine, when an official of a rather top level is brought to responsibility for the pressure on mass media.

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