Reporter in Torez Orphanage scandal speaks out


After an initial report from the human rights organization Postup (Progress) that a Donetsk journalist, Olena Dovzhenko had been dismissed from her job for a municipal newspaper “Zhyttya” [“Life”] over material about alleged infringements in the Torez Orphanage for Children with Special Needs, there was considerable coverage, not always accurate, of this in the media. 

Olena Dovzhenko has now written an article clarifying what happened.

She explains that she was not dismissed, and resigned herself, however says that she was put under pressure.

She explains that it all began on10 February when, as always, she brought the topics she was proposing for the next issue of the newspaper to the Deputy Chief Editor, Zhanna Lavrinenko. She says she was greatly surprised that the latter kept only the one dealing with the problem of children in the Torez Orphanage. She told me to definitely find out whose control the institution was under, and she even contacted me with the person from the MART.IN Club herself. The Issue Editor and at the end the Chief Editor Dmytro Shyshkyn, heard the conversation.

“I had understood what this all could lead too before I proposed the topic for consideration; what the others were thinking, I don’t know. I was surprised that they were all happy with it, no more than that. After leaving the editorial office, I warned the secretary that I wouldn’t be there on Friday since I had a doctor’s appointment.”

The secretary said that she would tell the management, but asked Olena to notify the Deputy Chief Editor herself. She says that the next morning she had just done this when she was called by the secretary saying that she must come into the office, that “everything here is very serious”.

 Olena explained that she couldn’t, and was advised to “ring the boss”. She says that the latter didn’t answer, and then she received calls again from the secretary, and then from the Deputy Chief Editor, Zhanna Lavrinenko, telling her she must come in without giving any reason. She says that she then needed to switch the phone off, and just at that time the Chief Editor rang. She rang back when she could and he again didn’t answer.

Since nobody had given her any reason, she rang colleagues who said the fuss seemed to be over the article on the children at the Torez Orphanage. They later told her news from the grapevine that seemingly the head of the Governor’s Press Service, had been put under pressure. Nobody could explain why, she says.

They also told her that on Friday morning the Deputy Governor, Olena Petryaeva, the Chief Editor and his Deputy, as well as a newspaper photographer had gone to the Orphanage. She says that her weekend was very stressful, and she arrived at work first thing on Monday morning to “talk with the Chief Editor about the problem and tell him that I can’t work like this”.

Nobody was there and she sat waiting. Then the photographer turned up and having received a negative answer to his question whether she would need photos for the next issue responded: “Well yeah, you won’t get anything for a long time. Petryaeva really wanted to see you on Friday, was outraged by the lack of professionalism of “that journalist”.

She then tried for the next hour to be seen by the Chief Editor and was fobbed off. Later all the journalists had been told of a planning meeting, and they didn’t bother to tell her.  Although when she asked, she was told to go to it, she had had enough and started dressing to leave. She then bumped into the Chief Editor who acted as though he didn’t know anything, and asked what the matter was. She told him that she couldn’t work in the kind of atmosphere that had emerged on Friday and that she was leaving. He said nothing.

She says that she then left the city, returning only on Friday when she got a call from a former fellow student, Olha Dorovskych who works for Radio Svoboda. The latter asked her to tell her about the situation over material on the Torez Orphanage children.

She says that she didn’t understand what it was all about, but was asked if her leaving was due to the publication. She answered that she had left following the publication but that she had left, not been dismissed.  She was told that Kateryna Pecherska, the Head of the Governor’s Press Service had seeming been dismissed and wondered whether it was over the same thing. 

There seems to have been some degree of breakdown in communication, and she denies having said either that she had been dismissed or that Ms Pecherska had been.  She says that on Tuesday she had received a call from the woman asking what she’d done to her, saying she’d had problems because of her and was going to take her to court, that she was furious and so was the Governor who had supposedly threatened to dismiss Pecherska.

Olena Dovzhenko apologizes in the article that she even mentioned Pecherska’s name without her permission (according to the new Law on Personal Data Protection this could presumably be used against her – translator) and confirms that the information about Pecherska’s dismissal was not correct.

She explains that the conditions of work in the municipal newspaper were anything but ideal, and said that her trial period had been dragged out. For that and many other reasons she had been ready to leave and the boorish behaviour that Friday had been the limit.

As far as the material on the Torez Orphanage is concerned, she is glad that she was able, with others, to draw attention to those poor children.

Heavily adapted from the article published here

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