Donetsk authorities get 1 out of 5 for openness


The Institute for Mass Information is running a series of interviews with journalists who suffered at the hands of the authorities or unidentified individuals while engaged in professional activities during 2011.

In Donetsk they spoke with Oleksy Matsuka, Chief Editor of the Internet publication Novosti Donbassa or News from Donbass. As reported, on 31 July 2011 an arson attack was carried out on the flat of the Chief Editor of the Internet newspaper Novosti Donbasu [Donbas News] and Head of the civic organization Donetsk Institute of Information.  The criminals left bags with cement wedged against the door and then set the door alight. They also left a funeral wreath with a message reading: “To Oleksy Vitaliyovych from grieving friends”.

Despite the fact that the Independent Media Union of Ukraine demanded that a criminal investigation be initiated for attempted murder, the police used the article “hooliganism”. There has also been no progress in the investigation.

Asked who was interested in intimidating the journalist, Oleksy Matsuka said that the investigation has stopped, that there has been no action at all since the beginning of 2012. He assumes hat the incident was over his professional activities. The Novosti Donbassa site provides news and carries out journalist investigations. They mainly concentrate on political figures and the local authorities. He stresses that they’re not only interested in the political aspects of their activities, but in the personalities involved. At that time the Governor was Anatoly Blyznyuk and they provided information about his house, car etc (Oleksy showed a video where you can see that Blyznyuk is driving a Mercedes S class, with brilliant tuning, and worth from 700 thousand UAH upwards (I EUR is approximately 10.5 UAH). They also published a report about the life of the Donetsk Bishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate, Ilarion, about his “castle”, for example, and expensive car.  He says that there were incidents after this as well.

How open are the authorities?

Oleksy Matsuka says that on a scale from 1 to 5, the Donetsk authorities barely scrape a 1.  They’re open only about what is good for their reputation, business etc.  When they’re asked about their real life, about financial matters, etc, they clam up. He says that they often tell stories about how they never have holidays abroad, etc, when in fact they may fly to Italy every weeks. “Since we raise these issues, they obviously don’t like us”.

He mentions Remembrance for the Heroes of Kruty [500 young students who died defending Kyiv in 1918) on 29 January in Donetsk.  During confrontation between Ukrainian and Russian nationalists, the Novosti Donbassa journalists were set upon and their equipment wrenched from them. They demanded that a criminal investigation be initiated under Article 171 (obstructing a journalist in his or her professional activities). The police refused and passed their statement to the Prosecutor and said that they didn’t see the use of that article as “expedient”. Without any explanation or reasons given, and that, he says, was the end of it. Despite the fact that there had been representatives of the city authorities present, police officers and there was a video recording showing what happened. “The local police and Prosecutor do everything to avoid initiating cases under specifically that article. It’s inconvenient for the local authorities which then gets negative statistics suggesting that journalists are obstructed in the region.

The interviewer was Roman Kabachiy from IMI

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