Arrest Welcome but IFJ Presses Kiev to Test Kuchma Link to Gongadze Killing

The International Federation of Journalists today welcomed the news that there has been a breakthrough in the case of murdered internet journalist Gyorgy Gongadze in the Ukraine but warned that “there can be no justice until all the evidence is examined.”

Earlier today, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said that authorities had detained several suspects in the killing of Gongadze and that further investigations are underway. Yushchenko has acknowledged that two of the four main witnesses in the case have been killed and today explained that, “The main task now is to get to the most important thing: who organized and ordered the murder”.

“At last it looks like there’s a government in Kiev that’s ready to take responsibility for a proper and thorough investigation of the case and to bring those responsible to justice,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “But at this stage we still need to know if the evidence that suggests the involvement of former President Leonid Kuchma is verifiable. If it is he and his government should be held accountable.

Over the past four years, the IFJ has been campaigning with others, including the Institute of Mass Information, the National Union of Journalists of the UK and Ireland and the Gongadze Foundation, to expose the incompetence of the previous Kuchma regime in investigating the Gongadze murder.

In January, a detailed report which assesses how the Gongadze case has been handled and calls on President Yushchenko to initiate a public inquiry into allegations of political collusion in the obstruction of justice in the case was prepared and presented by an international journalists’ inquiry at a press conference during the winter session of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly.

The IFJ says that crucial evidence which could directly link the former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to the assassination of Gongadze, whose headless body was found in a ditch outside Kiev over four years ago, must be considered in the preparation of any prosecution case.

The evidence concerns audio tapes in the hands of a former bodyguard of Kuchma, Mykola Melnychenko, which allegedly say that Kuchma called for his people to “sort out” Gongadze. Last year, a parliamentary committee recommended criminal proceedings against Kuchma as the likely suspect in masterminding Gongadze's death.

Next week the IFJ General Secretary will be in Kiev for the seventh European Ministerial Conference on Mass Media Policy and will meet with Gongadze supporters and journalists groups in the country to examine the latest developments in the case.

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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries