Press release

26 October 2004

NUJ protests over treatment of press as Ukraine is shamed by press freedom campaigners

The National Union of Journalists of Britain and Ireland has delivered a sharp protest to the government of Ukraine about the treatment of the media in the run-up to Presidential elections at the end of October.

The letter came as Ukraine was disgraced in an international report on press freedom. The French press freedom NGO Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) has today placed Ukraine 138th equal (with Mauritania) out of 167 in the world in its annual assessment of all countries. Ukraine is the lowest placed European country in the report; all below it are in Asia or Africa.

The NUJ has delivered its protest to the Ukrainian Ambassador in London, Ihor Mitiukov. Union leaders had a meeting with him on September 16, the fourth anniversary of the disappearance of slain website editor Gyorgy Gongadze.

The letter drew attention to attempts to suppress reporting on the TV Fifth Channel, the website Maidan and the news agency Unian.

The text of the letter is below. For more information telephone Tim Gopsill on (44) 207 843 3701, email timg@nuj.org.uk

25th October 2004

Ihor Mitiukov
Ambassador of Ukraine
Ukrainian Embassy, 60 Holland Park London W11 3SJ

Dear Ambassador,

I write, further to our meeting on 16 September about the Gongadze case and press freedom in Ukraine. At that meeting you assured us that the Ukrainian authorities are doing their best to defend and encourage press freedom. In this respect we bring to your attention reports we have received of serious attacks on press freedom in the course of the current presidential election campaign in Ukraine.

We are gravely concerned about the problems faced by the Fifth Channel, an important source of independent news reporting. The recent decision of the Pechersky district court to freeze the stationís bank accounts, and decisions of the National Television and Broadcasting Council that could lead to the channel being denied a broadcasting licence amount to an attempt to silence the channel. We ask you to convey our strongest possible protest against these actions, which amount to censorship.

The actions against the Fifth Channel take place in a context of other attacks on press freedom in the course of the election campaign. Those brought to our attention by our Ukrainian colleagues and by organisations monitoring the Ukrainian media include:

  • The harassment of Mikhailo Svistovich, editor of the internet site Maidan, by Ukrainian security service officers who carried out an unlawful search of his home;
  • Obstruction of journalists who tried to report the attack by security services officers on the offices of Svoboda Vyboru; and
  • Refusal of a number of official bodies to accredit journalists from Unian, one of the largest news agencies, which its journalists suspect is due to its attempts to present balanced coverage of the election.

We request that the Ukrainian authorities take urgent action to end these attacks on press freedom, without which no development of democracy is possible.

 
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