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Reporter Without Borders
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OPC Dismayed at Declining Press Freedom in Ukraine
H.E. Viktor Yanukovych
Office of the President
11 Bankova Street
Government of Ukraine
Fax: (011.380.44) 291.1001
We, the Freedom of the Press Committee of the Overseas Press Club of America, write to voice our dismay and rising anxiety over recent attacks on members of Ukraine’s vibrant media.
The press in a free society is an icon, a standard bearer that honors the democratic tradition. It must not be abused or restrained — yet, we see exactly that happening in Ukraine. We note, for example, the following:
- On March 23, Vasyi Demyanly, editor of Kolomoysky Visnyk, was brutally assaulted by strangers on his way home. He was hit on the head with a heavy object, which fractured his skull, and then pushed down and repeatedly kicked. Once he was at the hospital, where he had undergone complicated surgery as a result of the attack, he was not allowed to speak to journalists. Colleagues believe this violent act was in response to his criticism of the authorities in the twice-weekly newspaper.
- On April 12, police arrested Andriy Vey, director of Express newspaper, on charges of tax evasion Vey claims are fabricated. When several of his journalists went to the police station to object, they were cruelly beaten and their cameras smashed. Express has been targeted with threats to its editor-in-chief, Igor Poshynok, including gunshots fired through his office windows.
- On April 15, seventeen TV journalists from TVi wrote to you directly alleging that the Secret Service of Ukraine has “tried to declare our TV station a foreign one,” thus restraining the station from broadcasting. The journalists refuted the claim and have declared they will continue to broadcast.
- On April 21, police unlawfully searched the homes of two journalists and seized their equipment. This happened only two weeks after blogger, Olena Bilozerska, reports police raided her home in a search for information about demonstrators at a rally she had covered.
Against this backdrop of violence and harassment, Your Excellency, we note that you have dissolved the Commission for Establishing Freedom of Expression by a decree posted on your website. We have no record of a single press conference since your election in February. Meanwhile, harassment of journalists and violations of press freedom have been occurring not only in Kiev, but throughout Ukraine.
The Overseas Press Club of America, for more than seventy years, has defended and fought for the freedom of expression of our colleagues world-wide. In the world today, events — noble and derisory — are known almost immediately. It is unfortunate that Ukrainian values should be brought into question by restraints on the media’s responsibility to maintain transparency in government.
We call upon you, President Yanukovych, to signal by your actions an explicit intention to end these aberrant and sometimes violent attacks on our Ukrainian colleagues. We ask for the courtesy of a reply.
Jacqueline Albert Simon
Freedom of the Press Committee
H.E. Mykola Azarov
Office of the Prime Minister
Government of Ukraine
H.E. Oleh V. Shamshur
Ambassador of Ukraine to the U.S.A.
Embassy of Ukraine
3350 M Street, NW (Suite 711)
Washington, DC 20007
Fax: (202) 333.0817/ 7510
Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev
Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the United Nations
220 East 51st Street
New York, NY 10022
Fax: (212) 355.9455
H.E. John F. Tefft
U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine
Embassy of the United States of America
10 Yurii Kotsiubynsky Street
Fax: (011.380.44) 490.4085
Institute of Mass Information
8 Krupskoi Str.
Fax: (011.380.44) 566.1534
Mr. Roman Skrypin
Fax: (011.38.44) 277.9531