The International Federation of Journalists today welcomed the pledge by Ukrainian Prime Minister and presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych that he would personally take control of the investigation into the murder of opposition journalist Gyorgy Gongadze if elected president.
“We expect that both candidates in the election will commit themselves to fighting for justice in this case,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “They should also make it clear that there will be no general amnesty against prosecution for the current Ukraine President or other members of his government given speculation about high-level involvement in the killing of Gongadze.”
Gongadze disappeared on 16 September 2000. His body was found in a ditch at Tarashcha, outside Kiev. In November of that year, a former bodyguard of Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma released tape recordings of conversations in which the president and senior ministers apparently conspired to harm Gongadze.
Although the Ukrainian general prosecutor has arrested and questioned police and intelligence officers over the case, the authorities have never examined the tape recordings or charged anyone with the murder.
The IFJ, the journalists’ union in the UK the NUJ, the Institute of Mass Information in Kiev and the Gongadze Foundation, led by the journalists’ widow Myroslava, has carried out an inquiry into the handling of the case and in October submitted a memorandum to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, calling on them to press for a new inquiry into the case. This will be followed up in Strasbourg next month.
“It is right that the Gongadze case should be an election issue – it gets to the heart of demands for democracy and human rights in the Ukraine,” said White. “That is why there should be no question, as is rumoured, of amnesty for the outgoing authorities.”
Later this week the Chair of the European Federation of Journalists, Arne König, and IFJ Projects Director, Oliver Money-Kyrle, will travel to Kiev to support demands that press and media are given a free hand in the reporting of the new election due in two weeks.
The mission will also seek support among journalists for unified action to strengthen the trade union and professional rights of journalists in the country.
“Journalists have shown unprecedented solidarity in fighting for their rights over the past month,” said White. “We need to build on this confidence and create a movement that will bring permanent change in the social and professional conditions of media staff.”
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries