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04.05.2013

Violence worse, impunity absolute

   

Volodymyr Honcharenko, envisonrmentalist and editor of an environmental information newspaper, was murdered four days after exposing what he called a "chemical time bomb" in Kryvy Rih (Dnipropetrovsk).  

On 3 May 2013, with media organizations marking Press Freedom Day, Ukraine came in for some well-earned and damning criticism.  There was also a call from the US Helsinki Commission for a proper investigation into the murder of Volodymyr Honcharenko, well-known environmentalist and editor of an environmental newspaper.

It was yet another 10 places lower, down to 126, in Reporters without Borders 2013 Press Freedom Index The report states that “Just as it assumed the rotating chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation  in Europe (OSCE) Ukraine (126th, -10) set the

worst record for the media since the Orange Revolution in 2004. The chronically high level of violence towards journalists hit a new peak, while impunity remained total. Such an unhealthy atmosphere served only to increase the vulnerability of independent news outlets to ever-stronger pressure.

The report appears less than two weeks after the apparent beginning of the end for the last relatively independent TV channel in Ukraine – Tvi.

The Committee to Protect Journalists comments regarding Ukraine for at once entirely on track and sadly out of date, with the situation having once again changed radically over TVi (and Mykola Knyazhytsky’s role causing some degree of bemusement/

The following is from the CPJ report:

As Ukraine prepared to assume the 2013 chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the nation’s leaders undermined one of the organization’s core values: freedom of the press. Censorship, denial of public information, physical attacks against reporters, and politicized lawsuits against news outlets marred the nation’s press freedom climate, the Kiev-based Institute for Mass Information, or IMI,  reported. The boldest attack against the free press was parliament’s vote to criminalize defamation. Legislators were forced to withdraw the bill within weeks in the face of nationwide protests andinternational outcry. Protests also greeted a government tax investigation into the opposition broadcaster TVi. Starting in July, tax police and prosecutors raided the station’s newsroom and froze its bank accounts. Prosecutors eventually dropped their case against TVi owner Nikolai Knyazhitskiy but imposed a fine against the station. Impunity prevailed in ongoing assaults against reporters, as it did in the 2000 murder of Georgy Gongadze, the first online reporter in the world to be killed for his work. Although the trial of a former Interior Ministry general on charges of carrying out Gongadze’s brutal slaying began in July 2011, the proceedings ground away without resolution in late 2012. The prosecution has been pockmarked by the government’sprocedural missteps. In June, an appellate court said prosecutors could not pursue a case against former president Leonid Kuchma, who has long been accused of ordering the murder.

Press freedom violations intensified ahead of the October 28 parliamentary election,  IMI reported. The group said it had documented at least 60 violations in September alone, ranging from denial of public information to physical assaults on reporters and politicized lawsuits against news outlets. The number was up tenfold from January; both current lawmakers and new candidates were involved in the attacks, the IMI said.

 

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