Journalists’ organisations unite to lobby Council of Europe
The International Federation of Journalists, the National Union of
Journalists of the UK and Ireland, Reporters Sans Frontieres and the
Institute of Mass Information of Ukraine have jointly appealed to the
chairman of the committee of ministers of the Council of Europe to push
forward an international inquiry into the Gongadze case.
Gyorgy Gongadze, a Ukrainian journalist, was murdered in September 2000.
Subsequently evidence came to light linking Ukrainian president Leonid
Kuchma with a conspiracy to harm Gongadze.
A joint letter from the four organisations calls on Lithuanian foreign
affairs minister Antanas Valionis, the current chairman of the committee of
ministers, "without further delay and in accordance with the Parliamentary
Assembly's recommendation 1538 (2001), formally to ask member countries to
send investigators to participate in the inquiry".
The appeal also seeks an assurance from Valionis "that the independent
inquiry will be established before the monitoring procedure for Ukraine is
reconsidered" - i.e. before Ukraine is given a "clean bill of health" on
press freedom and other issues by the Council of Europe.
IFJ general secretary Aidan White, NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear,
Reporters Sans Frontieres general secretary Robert Menard and Alla Lazareva
of the Institute of Mass Information have also written to the foreign
ministers of 43 European countries asking them to volunteer the services of
investigators for an inquiry.
The inquiry was called for in September last year by the Council of
Europe's parliamentary assembly following the failure of Ukrainian law
enforcement bodies to investigate the killing. (For details see previous
updates, and the recent brochure on the case which is available from the
Last week's approach to Valionis follows a meeting in Paris earlier this
month between the four groups and other campaigners to co-ordinate efforts
to achieve justice in the Gongadze case.
TEXT OF THE LETTER TO ANTANAS VALIONIS
Mr Antanas Valionis
Chairman of the Committee of Ministers
Council of Europe
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania
LT-2600 VILNIUS - Lithuania
12 April 2002
Dear Mr Chairman:
We would like to draw your attention to the situation regarding the
independent international enquiry proposed by the Parliamentary Assembly of
the Council of Europe into the case of murdered Ukrainian journalist Georgy
You will be familiar with the case of Gongadze, a vocal critic of the
Ukrainian president, Leonid Kuchma. Shortly after his death, a former
bodyguard of the president made public audio tapes that appeared to show
that the highest authorities had conspired to harm Gongadze. Despite the
seriousness of these accusations, the general prosecutor's office has
obstructed any progress in the matter and all inquiries by Ukrainian law
enforcement agencies have come to nothing. The general prosecutor's office
and the interior ministry are doing everything they can to hinder any
In September 2001, the Parliamentary Assembly recommended to the Council of
Europe's Committee of Ministers that it "call on the Ukrainian authorities
to initiate if necessary a new investigation into the disappearance and
death of Georgy Gongadze, and to set up an independent commission of
enquiry including international investigators for this purpose, and ask the
governments of the member states of the Council of Europe to propose
assistance by their investigators."
The Committee of Ministers agreed that such an enquiry was necessary.
Ukrainian government, through its justice minister, Susanna Stanik, has
told the Council of Europe that it is ready to co-operate in such an
inquiry. Now the Committee of Ministers says that before proceeding it
wants assurances from member states of the Council that they will provide
We fear that the inquiry - which is vital for the cause of press freedom
throughout Europe and adherence to European democratic norms - could be
delayed by these procedural problems. We add our voices to that of Hanne
Severinsen, the Council of Europe parliamentary rapporteur on Ukraine, who
stated in the assembly that "we need to know how we can break out of the
We therefore ask you, without further delay and in accordance with the
Parliamentary Assembly's recommendation 1538 (2001), to formally ask member
countries to send investigators to participate in the inquiry. We also seek
an assurance from you that the independent inquiry will be established
before the monitoring procedure for Ukraine is reconsidered.
As organisations speaking for the majority of journalists in many European
countries, and recognised as playing a leading role in campaigning for
press freedom, we ask you to receive a delegation of our representatives to
discuss how the independent inquiry could be set up.
BRITISH TV TO SCREEN GONGADZE FILM - SUN 21 APRIL
The Gongadze case is featured in a TV film, Killing The Story,
to be shown on BBC2 on Sunday 21 April between 6.45pm and 7.30pm on BBC2. The film, by
Tom Mangold, is the most detailed treatment the case has so far received on
UK television and includes interviews with Gongadze's family and
colleagues, with president Kuchma and with his former bodyguard, Mykola
Melnychenko, who first released the tapes implicating Kuchma in Gongadze's