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Ukraine February 9, 2005
H.E. Viktor Yushchenko
Vul. Bankova 11
Fax: (011.380.44) 293-1001
The Overseas Press Club of America, which has been defending freedom of the press around the world for nearly 70 years, is heartened by your recent election and the promise it brings of an end to censorship, assaults and even murders of journalists in the Ukraine.
Violations of press freedom under the previous regime were so numerous that it seems unlikely that all the unsolved cases will ever be resolved. But there are some that still a cry out for justice, and we hope your government will be able to find and prosecute the criminals responsible.
In particular, we think of Georgiy Gongadze, the editor of a news Web site who was kidnapped, murdered and decapitated in 2000. The investigations that followed indicated that people in the highest circles of the Ukrainian government were responsible. But whenever investigators appeared to be near a solution, or whenever witnesses who had important evidence were found, they would inevitably be suppressed. When the prosecutor-general, Olexi Pukach, announced the Gongadze investigation was in its “final phase,” President Kuchma dismissed him. We hope that your prosecutor-general will fare better.
In addition to Gongadze, there are also the deaths of Valdimir Efremov, a correspondent of the Institute of Mass Information; Volodymyr Karachevtsev, deputy editor of the weekly, Kurier; Mikhailo Kolomiets, head of the Ukrainski Novyny press agency; and Igor Alexandrov, managing editor of TOR television in Slaviansk. The deaths of Efremov and Karachevstev may have been accidental, and Kolomiets may have committed suicide. Alexandrov was beaten to death by men wielding baseball bats. What all four had in common was that they died shortly before they would have revealed embarrassing information about high officials or criminal gangs. All had been threatened or arrested previously. Subsequent investigations into their deaths were bungled in a manner that showed that the investigators’ main objective was to shield important officials.
Other cases of physical attacks, threats and politically motivated dismissals are too numerous to list here, Your Excellency. Naturally, we hope that as many cases as possible can be investigated and resolved.
We can think of no better way to signal the commitment of your government to a new birth of freedom than by making clear that harassment of the Ukrainian press will no longer be tolerated.
Freedom of the Press Committee
Mykhailo B. Reznik
Ambassador of Ukraine to the U.S.A.
Embassy of Ukraine
3350 M Street, NW (Suite 711)
Washington, DC 20007
Fax: (202) 333-0817
The Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the United Nations
220 East 51st Street
New York, NY 10022
Fax: (212) 759-7003
Serhii O. Pohoreltsev
Consulate General of Ukraine
240 East 49th Street
New York, NY 10017
Fax: (212) 371-5547
John E. Herbst
U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine
Embassy of the United States of America
5850 Kiev Place
Fax: (011.380.44) 490-4085