Concern over Poor Protection of Witnesses in Cases involving Journalists


The Verkhovna Rada Inquiry Commission into cases of censorship and pressure on the media is concerned by the situation with the protection of witnesses in cases linked with the activities of journalists. This was stated on 21 October by the Chair of the Commission, Iryna Herashchenko.

Ms Herashchenko cited the example of Petro Matviyenko, colleague of the missing Kharkiv journalist Vasyl Klymentyev  who has sent the Commission a letter complaining of infringements of his procedural rights as a witness and of Article 17 of the Law on State Support of the Media and Social Protection of Journalists” as a result of the removal of journalist material and technology which he uses in his work.

A representative of the Prosecutor General’s Office asserted at the meeting that the flat of Mr Matviyenko, who is the Deputy Editor of “New Style” had been searched for a camera with photographs relevant to the Klymentyev case.  He claimed that Mr Matviyenko had refused to hand this and a number of other things over voluntarily. 

In his address to the meeting, Mr Matviyenko stated that court order used to justify the search gave a different reason: “Due to the fact that Matviyenko is making statements, giving interviews, calling press conferences, going to Kyiv and it is not clear where the money is coming from for all of this, the court allows the search to be carried out”.

He also asserted that former and present police officers are implicated in Klymentyev’s disappearance and he is therefore worried that he could be for some unknown reason arrested.

The Head of the Commission expressed concern that pressure might be placed on witnesses during investigative operations.

The Commission has decided to turn to the High Council of Justice in order to ascertain how warranted the search and removal of items was.

The Commission also considered applications from the Editor of the newspaper “Vilny Vybir” [“Free Choice”] (and Head of the Kherson Regional Branch of the Committee of Voters, Dementiy Bily over the assault on him by representatives of the local authorities and heard a report from Olena Bilozerska over an unlawful search of her flat. The Commission expressed concern that her request for a criminal investigation had been turned down.

There were no representatives of the Party of the Regions present at the meeting which Ms Herashchenko (from Our Ukraine) said did not seem mere chance.

The Commission also expressed outrage over the failure by National Deputies on Thursday to adopt the Law on Access to Public Information. The Commission will call on the Verkhovna Rada to support it in November.

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