21 September – Day in Memory of those who died for the Truth


In March 1997 Petro Shevchenko, correspondent from the newspaper “Kyevskiye vedomosti” [“Kyiv News”] arrived in Kyiv from Luhansk. He told a colleague who met him at the station that he was being watched, that he had things to do in the city and that he’d be at the editorial office after 14.00.  But he didn’t come … He was found hanging in a derelict boiler room near the airport “Zhulyanki”. The official version was suicide. That meant that he had specially come to Kyiv, brought a rope with him and found an isolated corner to shorten his life? The investigation was swiftly terminated and not even relatives were shown the material. His wife, fearing for her son’s life, emigrated to Canada.

Petro Shevchenko died not reaching the age of 43.  A little earlier, he had published a cycle of six features on corrupt dealings by those in power in the region, about attempts to dismiss the former mayor of Luhansk Oleksy Danylov and about how the Luhansk SBU [Security Service] and police were interfering in this.

Over the last decade 630 members of the media from different countries have died in hot spots or at the hands of hired killers. Since Independence in Ukraine, around 40 journalists have died in the course of their work. The first victim was the television journalist and National Deputy Vadim Boiko who was collecting material about how a mafia was forming in the new State and looking for documents as to where those who’d got rich quick had found their money. Then there were Yury Osmanov, Volodymyr Ivanov, Ihor Hrushetsky, Anatoly Tanadaichuk, Boris Derevyanko, Georgy Gongadze, Ihor Aleksandrov, Oleksy Tereshchuk, Norik Shyryn … This martyrologue can be continued, but perhaps it is best to hope that no new names will ever be added.

The National Union of Journalists of Ukraine have called on all those working in newspapers, journals, television, radio broadcasting, information agencies and Internet publications, to mark on the third Friday in September a Day in Memory of Ukrainian journalists who gave their lives for the Truth.

As reported here, a remembrance action was held on Sunday 16 September of Maidan Nezalezhnosti [Independence Square] in Kyiv honouring the memory of Georgy Gongadze and other journalists killed. This Day is not in competition, it is simply different. The Head of the National Union of Journalists Ihor Lubchenko points out that this day is not linked with any specific journalist and that we must honour all those who were killed in the course of their duties equally.

Ukrainian law enforcement officers have as a rule treated all these deaths as domestic incidents or linked with their health – a television blew up, they had a heart attack, skidded … The position of the Union with regard to such statements from the law enforcement agencies has unwaveringly remained that they consider the death of each journalist not investigated killing for their professional activities until proven otherwise in the courts.

.Mr Lubchenko says that they have sent requests to all religious communities in Ukraine to hold prayers. The High Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Lyubomyr Huzar immediately responded and called on all to pray on this day for journalists.

Anna Yashchenko  [slightly abridged] …

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