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End Impunity for violence against journalists!

26.11.2012    source: imi.org.ua

On 23 November International Day to End Impunity 11 Ukrainian media organizations published a petition in which they list 29 cases where those who used violence against media representatives remained unpunished despite calls to the law enforcement bodies to intervene.

In the petition to be handed to the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Interior Ministry and the President’s Administration, the NGOs demand that the cases be investigated and those responsible for offences linked with journalists carrying out their professional duties be punished.

According to Oleksandr Tarasov from the Independent Media Trade Union the law enforcement bodies do not treat the majority of assaults on journalists in Ukraine as obstruction of their journalist work, but as other offences, most often hooliganism.

Tetyana Kotyuzhynska from the National Union of Journalists says that in all cases where journalists were obstructed during 2012 the law enforcement bodies either refused to initiate criminal proceedings or imposed symbolic punishments. “Even when a journalist was very badly beaten and even when Article 171 of the Criminal Code (obstruction of a journalist carrying out their duties – translator) was infringed, the punishment was a fine of 51 UAH (less than 5 EUR – translator).

At a roundtable discussing the problem, she said that the issue has been raised many times with the police and Prosecutor’s Office, including during meetings of the Inter-departmental Working Group on Freedom of Speech. At a recent meeting to discuss the new Criminal Procedure Code, they were told that with the entry into force of the CPC the police will now automatically initiate criminal cases if journalists report obstruction while carrying out professional duties.  Up till now the law enforcement bodies had 10 days to investigate, and normally they decided not to initiate criminal cases under Article 171.  Now also Dictaphone recordings are added to the case file and can be used as evidence in court.  The new CPC also makes it possible to complain about the authorities’ failure to act. Ms Kotyuzhynska says that they hope for a response from the Prosecutor regarding the imposition of censorship at the UNIAN information agency. She believes that court practice should now develop where the inaction of the authorities is the subject of court cases. They are tired of hearing from the police that the culprit couldn’t be found and that there are no grounds for initiating a criminal case.

The petition is signed by the civic movement Stop Censorship!; the Independent Media Trade Union; the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine; the Institute for Mass Information; Telekrytyka; the Media Law Institute; the Mediafront Journalist Union; and Internews Ukraine. It is supported by Reporters without Borders and the International Federation of Journalists.

They demand that those who ordered the murder of Georgy Gongadze be found and brought to justice; an open and transparent trial in the case and a just sentence in the case of both those who carried out and those who ordered the crime.

Investigation and punishment of those responsible is also demanded with respect to the following:

The disappearance (/murder) of Kharkiv journalist Vasyl Klymentyev;

The attack on 1 + 1 journalist Dmytro Volkov;

The attack on photographer from tochka.net Vitaly Lazebnyk who was filming a protest in Victory Park on 3 May 2012;

The attack on five journalists and civic activists who were photographing products beyond their sell-by date in the Donetsk supermarket Sokil on 23 January 2012;

The attack on journalist Oleksandr Techynsky in October 2008.  Despite the fact that the assailant is easily identifiable on a photo, the incident has never been investigated;

The attempt on the life of Donetsk journalist Oleksy Matsuka. The case has not been investigated, the witnesses whom he named have not been questioned. The journalist is continuing to receive threats.

The beating of journalists by Special Unit Grifon officers at the Pechersky Court in July 2011;

They list 29 offences linked with journalists’ work during 2012 and demand investigation and punishment of those responsible.  They also demand information about the investigations into a long and depressing list of previous cases which remain unsolved. 

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