Ukraine must act, to defend freedom
As Ukraine's new President takes office, the inquiry into the killing of Georgy Gongadze issues its preliminary report.
Georgy Gongadze was a 31-year-old journalist and publisher of the Internet journal Ukrainska Pravda (www.pravda.com.ua). He disappeared on 16 September 2000. He was later found headless in a ditch in a suburb of Kiev.
The report was launched in Strasbourg on 25 January by Georgy Gongadzeís widow, Myroslava, just an hour before the new Ukrainian president, Viktor Yushchenko, addresses the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in the same building. Mrs Gongadze was joined by representatives of the International Federation of Journalists and the UK National Union of Journalists, and European parliamentarians, in demanding that Mr Yushchenko and his new government prioritises the case as a precondition for protecting and furthering media freedom and human rights in Ukraine.
The report concludes that investigations into the case have been obstructed as a result of political collusion within Ukrainian state bodies. It argues that Ukraine must hold a wide-ranging public inquiry that examines this collusion - including the connection to the case of the so-called "Melnichenko tapes", on which former president Kuchma was heard talking to senior politicians about harming Gongadze. It warns that any attempt to avoid dealing with the issue of political collusion will be a step backwards for media freedom and human rights.
Also in Strasbourg tomorrow, the Legal Affairs Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will consider a call by 22 Europe parliamentarians, including Hanne Severinsen, head of the Council of Europeís monitoring team for Ukraine, and Malcolm Bruce MP and Lord Judd of the UK, to look in to the wider aspects of the Gongadze case to which the report refers.
For further information:
- Tim Gopsill, NUJ. +44 20 7843 3701
- Simon Pirani, NUJ. +44 20 8333 2152
The report's sponsors:
The report calls on president Yushchenko, the general prosecutorís office and the government of Ukraine:
- To bring together and coordinate investigations into the possible surveillance of
Georgy Gongadze, investigations into allegations of illegal armed formations
operating within the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and investigations of the
Melnichenko recordings and the issues raised by them;
- To accept the proposal made last year by journalistsí organisations and NGOs for
the expert examinations of the Melnichenko recordings to include observers from
- To devise a transparent form of investigation of the nature of the links between
the Melnichenko recordings and the Gongadze case;
- To initiate a public inquiry, in an appropriate form under the Ukrainian
constitution, into the broad issue of political collusion in the obstruction of justice
in the Gongadze case;
- To ensure that such an inquiry covers the possible political involvement in the
case suggested by the Melnichenko recordings, the apparently deliberate
obstruction of the original investigations into the case, the presentation of false
information about these investigations to the public and to international
institutions, and intimidation of public officials who dealt with the Gongadze
It calls on the Ukrainian parliament:
- To hear the report of its ad-hoc commission on the Gongadze case without further
delay and to publish its findings and accompanying documentation in full.
It calls on the Council of Europe, and other international bodies such as the UN and
the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe:
- To support the Legal Affairs Commission of the Parliamentary Assembly of the
Council of Europe in following closely and reporting on legal and procedural
developments in the case, with regard to its wider aspects, as outlined in the
Motion of Resolution to the Parliamentary Assembly by Ms Hanne Severinsen
- To promote similar monitoring by other international bodies;
- To urge the Ukrainian government to commit itself to a broad examination of all
aspects of the case as outlined above.
- To develop mechanisms for rapid and concerted international action in the case of
journalists killed for apparently political motives;
It calls on the International Federation of Journalists, journalistsí organisations and
NGOs committed to freedom of speech
- To develop an international campaign around the issue of impunity of senior
political figures in respect of allegations of violent intimidation of journalists.