An international journalists’ inquiry today condemned the “indifferent and ignorant” failure of the Ukrainian authorities to investigate the ‘brutal’ killing of journalist Gyorgy Gongadze over four years ago and called on newly-elected Ukrainian President, Viktor Yushchenko to uphold his campaign pledge to solve the case and bring the killers to justice.
“This case has come to symbolize the yearning for justice and democracy in the Ukraine. It should be a top priority for the new government to bring this long-running saga of corruption, incompetence and injustice to an end,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary.
At a press conference held today at the Council of Europe headquarters in Strasbourg, the working commission of the investigation into the case - the International Federation of Journalists, the National Union of Journalists of the UK and Ireland, the Institute of Mass Information and the Gongadze Foundation - presented its report and findings to the winter session of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly.
The 58-page report provides a comprehensive assessment of the way the Gongadze case has been handled and concludes that President Yushchenko must initiate a public inquiry into allegations of political collusion in the obstruction of justice in the case.
“President Yushchenko must act quickly and commit himself to deliver the changes promised for media during the ‘Orange Revolution,’” said White. “The President’s acknowledgement that Gongadze was killed by the authorities is welcome and must not be lost in the afterglow of the election”.
The report highlights the failure of the Gongadze investigation to take into account wider political issues of government and judicial practice in the Ukraine.
Although the Ukrainian General Prosecutor has arrested and questioned police and intelligence officers over the case, the authorities have never examined tape recordings, which are alleged to implicate senior ranking officials in the Ukraine in his murder. No one has been charged.
The IFJ is calling on the newly-elected President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, René van der Linden to monitor legal and procedural developments in the Ukrainian media landscape and to ensure the Ukrainian government’s commitment to thoroughly investigate the Gongadze case.
“The Council of Europe must maintain pressure on the government to deal with the serial failures of law enforcement, judicial and governmental procedures in the Ukraine that have contributed to the non-resolution of the case,” said White.
The inquiry was launched in November 2003 and a working commission was established in order to examine the apparent failure of legal and judicial processes into the Gongadze case and the reaction of institutions and civil society to the case.
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.
In its report on journalists and media staff killed in 2004, one of the worst on record, the IFJ last week highlighted the Gongadze case in the Ukraine as one of the prime examples of impunity in the killing of journalists worldwide.
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries