‘Do not defame my deceased colleagues, Mr. Minister!
(Open letter of the head of the Independent Union of Journalists of Ukraine, to Minister of Interior Yuri Smirnov)
Respected Mr. Smirnov!
Some days ago, while communicating with representatives of mass media during the ‘hotline, you committed a brutal, to say the least, indiscretion. You declared that 80% of the 18 journalists, whose names are engraved on the commemorative plate opened by our Union, perished not because of their professional activities, but by their own guilt – from hard drinking.
Who are they?
Was it Vadim Boyko, an MP, the author of sharp social TV features, who commenced the tragic passional of our losses?
Or was it Volodymir Ivanov, the editor of the newspaper ‘Slava Sevastopolia, killed by an explosive gadget?
Or Petro Shevchenko, the Lugansk correspondent of ‘Kievskie vedomosti, the author of critical articles about the local authorities, who was found hanged in Kyiv?
Or Anatoliy Tanadiychuk from the Vinnitsa oblast, the author of the articles about Koziatin militiamen, who tortured the detained? The ‘heroes of these publications more then once threatened the journalist. He came to the personal reception to your predecessor. The commission was sent to Koziatin, which, instead of checking the facts made public by the journalist, collected compromising materials about him. ‘Well, if a journalist criticizes militia, must he die?, asked Anatoliy in the newspaper ‘Ukraina moloda. He guessed the truth – some days later he was killed. The official version was: a common death, on his own birthday party. The version suits the ministerial scheme very well. And what about the scandalous facts of torture of the detained and threats, about which the journalist wrote? Why did not the Ministry check the facts, give them a principal assessment and undertake the corresponding measures? It seems that an ancient Stalins times principle worked: ‘No person – no problem.
The same can be said about all our colleagues, who figure in the list. Having not found the guilty in the death of these journalists, your subordinates try to prove that these murders were everyday deaths; the case of Igor Aleksandrov is also being squeezed within this frame.
But why do our colleagues, the most principal authors of publications and features, which have public resonance, die in such quantities in the ‘everyday way? No, we believe: these journalists perished for their professional activities until the court proves the opposite!
As early as in June 1999 I suggested to the law-enforcing organs to check all the cases connected with deaths of journalists, to meet with representatives of those mass media, where the perished worked, to dot all the is and to answer the questions of the journalists colleagues (there appear many such questions). Nobody followed my advice.
With your tactless phrase you offended all the journalist community and hinted to your subordinates: stop investigating journalists deaths – they are all drunkards!
By the way, militiamen drink not less than journalists, but you bring flowers to monuments of your perished colleagues, commemorate them on the special day.
I feel shame at your attitude to my colleagues, especially dead, who already cannot defend their honor themselves. And are not you ashamed, Mr. Smirnov?
11 October 2001
Igor Lubchenko, head of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine http://www.imi.com.ua/