Journalists speak of an assault on freedom of speech

On Friday 11 August 2006, a closed gathering was held of journalists from various publications and television channels. The meeting was called to discuss certain recent events which the journalists believe may constitute an attack on freedom of expression.  Those present adopted and signed a Statement and Warning which is now available for signing on “Telekritika” and a number of other online publications.

The text may be signed over the next week, after which it will be sent to the authorities. In accordance with Ukrainian legislation, officials must provide the journalists with an answer within ten days. In the event that the demands listed in the Statement are not met, journalists are ready to resort to various forms of protest.


On 9, 10 and 11 August 2006 a number of regrettable and disturbing events took place in Ukraine which may augur the beginning of an assault on freedom of speech.

At first, around midday on 9 August, in the centre of Kyiv three employees of “Nashe Radio” [“Our Radio”] were abducted.  They were taken by car to a forest, questioned with force and intimidation being applied. Such an outrageous example of criminal lawlessness has not been seen in the capital of Ukraine for a long time.

On 10 August Viktor Yanukovych’s newly appointed Press Secretary Denis Ivanesko refused to allow Channel 5 to broadcast the Head of the Government’s press conference live, this infringing the Laws “On information” and “On television and radio broadcasting”.  No official explanation for this incident has been forthcoming from the press service of the Cabinet of Ministers.

On the evening of 10 August in the city of Phoros, the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea, director of the Phoros Television and Radio Company (TRC) Fedor Sapiy was assaulted. An unidentified individual attacked him with no apparent motive, dealing several blows to the hear, before fleeing when an employees from the TRC appeared on the scene.

On 11 August information was sent by the Press Secretary of the Kyiv City State Administration to the media informing them of restrictions on providing journalists with information by official representatives of the Kyiv City State Administration.

In addition, it should be noted that thus far State Deputy Oleg Kalashnikov has not been appropriately punished for his assault on the filming crew from STB. Kalashnikov remains de  facto in the Party of the Regions despite the statement by the Party’s leaders that he was expelled.

There has also been no investigation into the attack on the Chief Editor of “Stolychni novyny” [“Capital news”] Volodymyr Katsman. It is not clear what stage the investigation into the murder of Georgy Gongadze is at.

As journalists and employees of media outlets, we are extremely disturbed by all these events which have all taken place over a short period of time. We hope that this is pure coincidence, however we would note that we will do all in our power to prevent a return to the days of censorship and pressure on the mass media.

We call on the Minister of Internal Affairs Yury Lutsenko to take the investigation of attacks on media employees under his personal control.

We suggest that a Public Council attached to the Centre for public relations of the MIA be created in order to ensure swift reaction to any crimes against journalists and employees of media outlets, coordination of actions with the MIA and in order to provide qualified and fast assistance to colleagues who have been caught up in such regrettable situations.

We turn to the Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych to take measures to prevent actions involving the restriction of the rights of the mass media to open governmental information.

We demand that the Prime Minister draw organizational conclusions regarding the behaviour of his Press Secretary Denis Ivanesko in this specific situation, that he published in the media his Government’s official position on banning live broadcasts of press conferences, and that he also provide assurances that such situations will not be allowed to arise in the future.

We demand from regional administrations and local authorities that any restrictions on the access of the media to open information be removed, this including restrictions on accreditation in those authorities.

We call on the Prosecutor General in the nearest future to make a public statement regarding the assault by State Deputy Oleg Kalashnikov on the STB filming crew, as well as to provide information on other prominent crimes against journalists.

We call on the faction of the Party of the Regions in the Verkhovna Rada to provide the media with official information from the faction regarding Mr Kalshnikov’s membership of the faction, since in official documents of the Verkhovna Rada, despite the statements of the leadership of the Party of the Regions, he remains on the faction’s list.

On our part we affirm our continuing will to uphold freedom of speech and the safety of our colleagues through all lawful means available to us.

We would warn that should the attack on freedom of speech continue, we are ready to use  various forms of active protest.

Signatures in support of the Statement may be sent to the address [email protected]

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