The International Federation of Journalists and its regional group, the European Federation of Journalists, today condemned the Ukraine over “three wasted years” in the hunt for the killers of investigative reporter Georgy Gongadze, a sharp critic of the government.
On 16 September 2000 Georgy Gongadze, an investigative reporter and publisher of the online journal Ukrainska Prawda (pravda.com.ua), disappeared only for his mutilated body to be found later in a ditch near the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. Gongadze had worked tirelessly to expose cases of governmental corruption, including articles incriminating the incumbent President Leonid Kuchma.
“The third anniversary of this terrible killing finds his family, friends and colleagues still waiting for justice after a period of intolerable incompetence in this investigation,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “There have been three wasted years; now we want to see some action to find the killers and bring them to trial”.
The IFJ has welcomed recent developments in which Hryhoriy Omelchenko, the head of the Parliamentary ad hoc Committee on the Gongadze case is pushing the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s office to investigate a list of persons named in the letters of former policeman Ihor Honcharov. Based on evidence ensuing from this list, the Committee has said that it is going to interrogate Defence Minister Yevhen Marchuk.
“At last there is some movement, but we want this case to be put on a fast track,” said White, “the credibility of the Ukraine as an emerging democratic state depends upon it.
Since the killing, numerous international protests and investigations have mounted in order to break a three-year procedural stalemate. In spite of a number of international interventions no conclusive decisions have been formulated.
The IFJ carried out a mission earlier this year and demanded that the Melnychenko tapes (which claim to implicate senior figures in Kuchma’s government) and other information substantiating the targeting of Gongadze for his professional work must be made available to prosecutors in order to help track down the killers.
The IFJ is calling for a thorough review of all actions that have been taken in the case so far, along with a concerted international effort to ascertain what has not been covered and to see that this is completed. The IFJ continues to give its full support to its trade union colleagues from the National Union of Journalists in the UK/Ireland and the Ukraine in their endeavours to closely follow the current actions of the Ukrainian government.
The IFJ, with the support of British and Irish journalists and its affiliate in Sweden, Svenska Journalistförbundet, is planning a media conference in Spring 2004 prior to the national elections in order to assess the progress of media reform and trade union solidarity in the Ukraine.
“Elections next year offer an opportunity for lasting change,” said White. “There needs to be a coherent manifesto for reform in media, but the starting point must be to close the Gongadze case with those responsible brought to justice.”
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries