Statistics of violations of the freedom of speech in 2003
Four Ukrainian journalists perished under obscure circumstances or were murdered in 2003. 42 journalists underwent attacks, threats and intimidation. 38 Ukrainian mass media stated about the economic, political or indirect pressure exerted upon them or their workers. The IMI monitoring disclosed 33 facts of impediment to the professional activities of journalists. 46 claims were handed against Ukrainian mass media and journalists; 20 suits against state officials and state organizations were brought by mass media and journalists.
In comparison with the previous year, the total number of the violations of the freedom of speech, disclosed by the IMI monitoring, did not essentially change. The quantitative characteristics for 2002 and 2003 were almost identical: about 170 various violations. So, the situation did not improve, moreover, if to analyze the violations committed in 2003 from the qualitative viewpoint, one can observe the intensification of certain negative tendencies.
Last year four journalist perished under obscure circumstances or were murdered: Taras Protsiuk, Volodymir Efremov, Volodymir Kucheriaev and Volodymir Karachevtsev.
Taras Protsiuk was the first international reporter perished during an alien war: the military operation of the USA and the Great Britain in Iraq. The Pentagon carried out the investigation and made the conclusion about the fatal error of a sniper. Not all Tarass colleagues agreed with this conclusion, but neither friends nor relatives of the journalist turned to court or protested in other way.
Volodymir Kucheriaev was shot, presumably, by his close acquaintance and business partner. The motives of this murder are interpreted as doubtful in Kremenchug. Yet, one of the versions is connected with Kucheriaevs professional activities, which concerned not only journalism (he headed the local branch of the holding company “Blitz-inform”).
Volodymir Efremov, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper “Sobor” and the representative of the IMI in Dnepropetrovsk, perished in a road accident: his car collided with a truck. The investigation of this accident is conducted now.
Volodymir Karachevtsev caught with his collar on the handle of refrigerator and died from asphyxia. Now the prosecutors office of Melitopol carries out the additional investigation of journalists death in order to understand whether to open the criminal case after the fact of murder.
Unfortunately, despite the promises of law-enforcers, 2003 did not become the turning-point in the investigation of murders of journalists Georgiy Gongadze and Igor Aleksandrov. Although the law-enforcers declared that Aleksandrovs murderers had been already arrested and giving evidence, and that Gongadzes murderers were already known, the cases were not passed to court.
As to the attacks and threats, there the “menu” was rather traditional. However, the number of such violations in 2003 increased almost twice: from 23 in 2002 to 42 in 2003. The country still lives after the Soviet standard of disrespect for the role and opinion of an individual and absolute power of state authorities.
This tendency is especially obvious in province, from where we received the lions share of messages about the attacks and threats. And the local officials are sure that there are only two opinions about any question: theirs and wrong. So, they stubbornly try to prove their rectitude.
The facts of political, economic and indirect pressure on mass media are, alas, still actual too. In 2003 we registered 38 such facts, in 2002 – 30. At that, the indirect pressure, when it is difficult to prove anything, is the most frequent method for curbing the disloyal mass media. The recent events around the newspaper “Lvivska gazeta” confirmed that.
The numerous messages from the province evidence that it has become dangerous not only to endorse the opposition, but even merely not to work for the state power.
The IMI knows about 46 claims brought against mass media and journalists in 2003. In 2002 this number was somewhat less -- 38. The most frequent motive of such claims is “libel, moral and material damage, damage to business reputation”. The only positive moment there is that none of the claims resulted, as it had happened before, in closing of the mass media.
Besides, it is noteworthy that the claims against the ordered publications, which purposely discredit the honor and dignity of the opponents of one or another political or financial figure, are, in our opinion, absolutely legitimate and even necessary for the introduction of real democracy in Ukraine. The democracy, which, throughout the world, begins from the responsibility for ones actions.
However, the number of the claims initiated by journalists in 2003 was less than in previous year: 21 and 27, respectively. Yet, the people, who are ready to fight for their rights still exist and are realizing these ideas. Let us wish them good luck and competent advocates!