Journalists protest against persecution of their colleague


Investigative journalists, headed by Chief Editor Igor Kanevskiy, are leaving the newspaper “Biznes” in protest at the persecution of their colleague Oleksandr Dranikov. A new media-project will be created in Ukraine, which will specialize in investigative journalism.

We have all worked in the business press for 2-10 years. During several past years our lives have been connected with the leading business edition of Ukraine – the weekly “Biznes”. Since spring 2004, along with everyday journalistic work, we were occupied with investigation of the political career and business-activities of Dmytro Tabachnik, Oleksandr Tretyakov, David Zhvania, Yevhen Chervonenko, Vladislav Milenki, Eduard Zeynalov and a number of other well-known political figures. This work was started when Sergey Melnichuk, the main owner of the company “KhK “Blits-Inform”” (the publisher of the newspaper “Biznes”) was faced with criminal prosecution. Under pressure fromTabachnik’s and Tretyakov’s team, criminal charges involving tax evasion were brought against him.

Our work resulted in the publication of a series of articles about the business activities of top officials of our state. We exposed the attempts at secret privatization of the largest printing enterprises of the country united into the company “Ukrizdatpoligrafia”. If this happened, 80% of printed mass media would become dependent on the group of persons from the team of Tretyakov and Tabachnik. We also made public the plans of Yevhen Chervonenko, who, as Minister of transport, actively lobbied for the creation of yacht-club on the territory of the Yalta sea port. Our publications permanently described the misuses of officers of tax police and local state officials – the people, who most influenced the small-scale business.

The publications we prepared played into the hands of our employer Sergey Melnichuk, who used them to bargin with the present regimes over his own business-preferences. From the middle of July 2005 he initiated negotiations with MP Mykola Martynenko, the leader of the parliamentary fraction “Our Ukraine”. Sergey Melnichuk’s plan was that Martynenko would provide the “cover” for the company “KhK “Blits-Inform”” and would “hush up” the criminal case against Melnichuk. Melnichuk, for his part, was allegedly ready to support Martynenko in his ambition to become Mayor of Kyiv. At the beginning of the negotiations Melnichuk, being the publisher of the newspaper, created a list of persons, “not to be touched” by journalists of “Biznes”. The editorial board was prohibited from publishing any materials about the business dealings of Oleksandr Tretyakov, Mykola Martynenko and other members of “Our Ukraine”. Instead it was suggested that we look for some compromising facts about Kyiv mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko or the speaker of the Verkhovna Rada Volodymyr Litvin. Evidently, the promises given to new “partners” obliged our employer to do that. We refused to fulfill this work.

After this, from the end of September, the repressions started in the newspaper. Oleksandr Dranikov, a Deputy Chief Editor in charge of investigative journalism, was dismissed from the newspaper.  He refused to resign, but from 22 September he was not admitted to work, and the administration of the company, led by general manager of the publishing house “Blits-Inform” Yuri Feoktistov,  began to spread gossip among the staff about  Dranikov’s supposed midemeanours. His dismissal was accompanied by a  series of flagrant violations of the Labor Code by administration of the enterprise, such as non-payment of salary, non-giving of reference about income, acts on passing of property of the enterprise, etc.

The journalistic collective of the newspaper was absolutely demoralized by such actions on the part of Sergey Melnichuk and Yuri Feoktistov. On 11 October 2005 this story received its logical continuation. The apogee of persecution of the journalist was the threats of physical violence received by the journalist from two unknown young people, who demanded that Dranikov abandon journalism. The journalist turned to the organs of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the General prosecutor’s office with complaints about these threats. The law enforcements bodies have not yet reacted to Oleksandr Dranikov’s complaints.

However, the most capable team of investigative journalistsdid not desert in the hard time. In protest at the persecution of their colleague Oleksandr Dranikov, they decided to leave the newspaper “Biznes”. This decision was not a demarche against Melnichuk, who exchanged the principles of European editorial policy for the “ideas” of the gang of the corrupted officials, but an attempt to create an absolutely new media-project, the goal of which would be the formation of honest power in Ukraine.

("Pravoe delo", Odessa , No. 111, 20 October 2005)

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