IFJ Warns Ukrainian Authorities Over “Relentless Pattern” of Repression Against the Voice of Dissent

The International Federation of Journalists today condemned the “relentless pattern of repression” by Ukrainian government leaders, following the closure of another independent station in Kiev.

Yesterday, the Ukrainian State Center of Radio Frequencies ordered a police raid on the offices of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's (RFE/RL) affiliate partner in Kiev, Radio Kontynent confiscating the FM broadcaster's transmission equipment, sealing the office and detaining three people, including the station's chief engineer. The Ukrainian authorities said Kontynent had not been licensed to broadcast in the popular FM band.

“After the ban on Radio Liberty less than two weeks ago, this latest action by the Kuchma regime is an undeniable repression of independent media,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “This is a direct attack on the journalists right to report freely and to produce critical and independent journalism”.

Serhiy Sholokh, director of the independent Radio Kontynent in Kiev, fled the former country, after his station came under pressure when it announced it would start rebroadcasting US-funded Radio Liberty programmes, which had lost access to FM broadcasting via management changes in Radio Dovira. According to reports, Mr Sholokh said he was threatened by representatives of the United Social Democratic Party, headed by presidential chief of staff Viktor Medvedchuk.

Radio Kontynent is well-known for its support of the Ukrainian opposition and has rebroadcast programmes of the BBC, Voice of America and Deutsche Welle on 100.9 FM. The station had added two hours of RFE/RL Ukrainian Service programming to its schedule on February 27 and this latest act again eliminates RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service from the FM airwaves in the Ukrainian capital.

Sholokh indicated that he would take his case to the local courts as well as the European Court for Human Rights.

Radio Kontynent also works closely with Ukrainska Pravda, the online paper founded by Gyorgy Gongadze, the Internet journalist who crusaded against high-level corruption and was brutally beheaded in 2000 in circumstances which directly implicate the President Leonid Kuchma. The IFJ is conducting a campaign in order to review this case and to work against a developing culture of impunity in the Ukraine.

The IFJ is keeping the EU fully informed on events in the Ukraine given the country’s long-term ambitions to join the EU. We welcome the EU’s engagement over events in Kiev,” said White in response to a statement by Emma Udwin, EU Commission Spokeswoman for External Relations that, “freedom of the media within the scope of human rights and democracy is vital and so this does have an impact on our relationship with the Ukraine”.

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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries