Kiev, we have a problem

ANOTHER month, another internet-related attack on freedom of speech. This one, starting at the end of October, concerned the "Institute for Mass Information" (IMI) in Kiev, a non-governmental organisation trying to facilitate independent reporting.

Branch members had met them in 2003, in connection with their efforts to help uncover the murder of Gyorgi Gongadze - an online journalist whose headless body was found in a ditch outside Kiev in 2000. London Freelance Branch has played an important rôle in the international campaign for a proper investigation of his murder.

The IMI website - the fifth or sixth most visited in the country - was under hacker attack. Ukraine, as almost everyone in the world became aware a few weeks later, was starting a fractious election process.

Possibly the attacks were sponsored by the régime of outgoing President Kuchma, accused of ordering Gongadze's murder. Certainly, more conventional critical media were under more conventional attack. Anyway, action was needed.

With an enormous amount of help from www.GreenNet.org.uk, we helped set up a "mirror site" that automatically reproduces imi.org.ua every few hours. This site - imi.gn.apc.org - came under attack too, but one or the other stayed available, in Ukrainian and English, almost all the time.

The situation in Ukraine is complicated. Accusations from the old régime that the "reformers" are sponsored by US interests contain some truth. But we are proud to have helped freer reporting there.

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