03.06.2010 | Otar Dovzhenko

Today it’s them, tomorrow – you


Dear Colleagues, when you’re silent, can you be sure that tomorrow somebody won’t be just as silent when your rights are violated?

Today at 4 a.m. “security guards” from “Municipal Security” together with the police destroyed the camp of protesters trying to stop the destruction of Kharkiv’s Gorky Park.

The previous attack in the morning of 1 June had been successfully deflected. The confrontation over several weeks with dozens injured, not only activists but our journalist colleagues passed by virtually without the attention of the national media. There were the odd features stories or reports and the tree felling issue was fleetingly mentioned on the television show Shuster Live, however the local authorities insisted that the destruction of the park was entirely legal and that would seem to have acted as a hypnotic tranquillizer on the media. Friends from Kharkiv called and wrote a despairing request to at least somehow attract journalist attention to the unprecedented lawlessness. Blood was shed virtually everyday, workmen attacked protesters with their saws, lowered their excavator scoop on them. The police who were present from time to time went for representatives of just one side, three guesses which. The heads of the hospitals which took in ambulances with those injured soon denied that the people had any injuries. And so forth.

You would think that in a place where any second they could crush somebody with an excavator or draw blood with a saw, and the workmen are cutting down trees with protesters in them, that there would have to be a concentration of film crews, photographers and correspondents from all the media with any modicum of self-respect. And the confrontation should have been shown live.

After all, on 1 June, for example two channels – STB and TRC “Ukraina” found a more important event, showing how a dinosaur park was set up on the central square in Kharkiv.  The other channels found nothing of interest in Kharkiv. On 28 May only “Ukraina”, Channel 5 and Inter reported the detention of 12 people and escalating confrontation.  Of these three channels only Channel 5 worried about balance, while Inter quoted only the police and “Ukraina” too voices for the construction against one comment from a protester.

The immoral policy of “non-interference”, or more accurately not noticing the effects of local communities to counter the efforts of the authorities to violate their rights takes on absurd proportions. One can doubtless argue as to whose truth is truer – that of the local authorities which claim that they want to improve the city’s transport infrastructure, or of hundreds of concerned citizens who prefer trees to 10 hectares of future road. Yet surely that does not mean that an event of such scale – and with such consequences – can be ignored or showed fleetingly as “insignificant disturbances in the regions”?

There has been a more successful – so far – battle by activists against the felling of oak woods where the local authorities have allocated 5 hectares for an Amstore supermarket to be built.  That’s an example of a victory, albeit not final, of members of the public who have asserted their right to breathe clean air and walk in a forest, not at a car park near a shop. The author points out that again there was no mention of this in the national media.

He writes that he is forced to state a banal truth: that the more such demonstrations of civic activity are ignored, the less chance similar events have of succeeding. And then his colleagues will one day arrive home and find that the square where they walk their dog has been turned into a building site for an elite high-rise. Then if you come out in protest, you’ll be beaten up by “security” and they’ll claim that you were paid for your protest by the opposition.

Will that really not concern them? 

Let’s hope, of course. However if you’re not sure, there’s still a bit of time to the evening news to convince your Chief Editor that in Ukraine an important event took place, worth coverage, worth the attention of a nationwide audience.

Abridged from the original here:

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