NUJ Press Release re meeting 16 September 2003

For immediate release September 9 2003

WIDOW OF MURDERED JOURNALIST TO SPEAK IN LONDON

Meeting at the Foreign Press Association, 16 September

Myroslava Gongadze, wife of the Ukrainian journalist Gyorgy Gongadze, will be telling her story at a London meeting on the third anniversary of her husband's disappearance.

Gyorgy Gongadze, editor of the independent news website Ukrainska Pravda, went missing in Kyiv on September 16 2000. His headless body was found in a ditch. Then a bodyguard of Ukraine President Leonid Kuchma released an audio tape in which the President and senior ministers were heard apparently conspiring to harm the journalist.

Since then Myroslava Gongadze and journalists and organisations throughout Europe, including the NUJ, have been campaigning for a thorough enquiry into the killing, which the Ukrainian authorities have persistently blocked.

In July a key witness in the case died in police custody. Igor Goncharov, a former senior officer in the interior ministry forces, was about to testify to the general prosecutor about the operation of the ministry's death squads. He left a series of letters to be opened after his death, stating that he intended to give evidence on "a number of crimes planned and committed by officials of the interior ministry and the organised crime directorate in Kyiv", including the murder of Gyorgy Gongadze.

Extracts from the letters were published by a media NGO in Ukraine, the Institute of Mass Information, and Alla Lazareva of the IMI will also be speaking at the meeting on September 16.

The two Ukrainian women will be joined at the meeting by Robert Shaw, safety officer of the International Federation of Journalists; by Labour MP Paul Farrelly, a supporter of the Gongadze campaign; and by NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear.

Jeremy Dear said: "The Gongadze case is a touchstone for press freedom in Europe. There is prima facie evidence that the head of state may have conspired to harm Gongadze shortly before his death.

"Until it is dealt with, dictators and bullies everywhere will believe they have impunity to use violence to shut up journalists who write things they do not like."

MEETING AT THE FOREIGN PRESS ASSOCIATION

11 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AJ (Charing Cross or Piccadilly Circus tubes)

Tuesday September 16, 7pm

Speakers:

  • Myroslava Gongadze, widow of Gyorgy Gongadze
  • Alla Lazareva, Institute of Mass Information, Kyiv
  • Paul Farrelly MP
  • Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary

Contacts:

  • Tim Gopsill, NUJ, 0207 843 3701
  • Jeremy Dear 0207 843 3709
  • Foreign Press Association, Bob Jenner 0207 930 0445
 
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