first_img Ukrainian media group harassed by broadcasting authority News RSF_en Crimean journalist “confesses” to spying for Ukraine on Russian TV UkraineEurope – Central Asia Reporters Without Borders condemns a Council of Europe report on the murder of Ukrainian political journalist Georgy Gongadze as a “whitewash” and a “stab in the back” for his family. Organisation Follow the news on Ukraine Reporters Without Borders today condemned a Council of Europe report on the murder of Ukrainian political journalist Georgy Gongadze as a “whitewash” and a “stab in the back” for his family.Independent expert Hans Christian Krüger had investigated whether the authorities were professionally and properly conducting the enquiry into the killing of Gongadze, editor of the online newspaper www.pravda.com.ua, who disappeared on 16 September 2000. “The report is a big stab in the back,” said Reporters Without Border secretary-general Robert Ménard. “We and the Gongadze family fought to have the Council thoroughly investigate the unusual number of serious flaws in the enquiry, but the report is simply a whitewash of the errors of the former prosecutor-general and an unjustified statement of confidence in his successor. Krüger’s firm convictionThe report, only four pages long and published by the Bureau of the Council’s Parliamentary Assembly on 27 June after being ordered last September, says the “Melnychenko tapes” (made by a former secret policeman) are “the only element” in the case indicating Gongadze’s disappearance and murder “may be linked to his activities as an opposition journalist.” It says the prosecutor-general’s office “was put under considerable pressure to present the public quickly with concrete results and that, as a consequence, a number of mistakes were made during the first two years of the investigation” conducted by the former prosecutor-general, Mihailo Potebenko. “The question to be asked is whether or not the efforts made by [current prosecutor-general] Mr (Svyatoslav) Piskun to reassure both the Ukrainian public and the international community and to give the investigation a new impetus are sincere and in conformity with general standards applied by the public prosecution in democratic societies in similar circumstances.””Having carefully examined all the elements collected, I believe they are,” say Krüger. “Whether the steps his team have taken will lead to a concrete result remains a matter for conjecture but I am convinced that the present Prosecutor General, in very difficult circumstances, is doing all he can to bring the Gongadze case to a solution.”The position of Reporters Without Borders1. Gongadze was targeted because he was a journalistMany elements – not just one as Mr Krüger says – suggest Gongadze was killed because he was a journalist. He was well-known for his strong criticism of the authorities and his vigorous fight for press freedom in Ukraine. Gongadze was very outspoken during the 1999 presidential election campaign. When he and four other journalists questioned President Leonid Kuchma during a TV debate on the national TV station 1 + 1, he openly accused the then interior minister, Yuri Kravchenko, of corruption and undermining civil liberties, especially press freedom. When Gongadze went to the United States, from 3 December 1999 to 5 January 2000, a few days before an official visit by President Kuchma, he met State Department and Congressional officials, the media and the large Ukrainian diaspora. He distributed a statement signed by 60 Ukrainian journalists criticising curbs on press freedom in Ukraine and held a press conference about it. He was also actively involved in opposing an April 2000 referendum to boost presidential powers and was a leading organiser of a 3 May 2000 demonstration of journalists in Kiev against attacks on press freedom. In his online paper, www.pravda.com.ua, which he launched in April 2000, he published articles by other journalists criticising top political and economic figures for corruption. In the months before he vanished, Gongadze was spied on by the state militia and followed by strangers in a car with militia numberplates. He said he was frightened and had complained of “deliberate provocation to intimidate me or at least to stop me doing my job as a journalist” in an open letter to prosecutor-general Potebenko on 14 July 2000 that year. But legal officials did not take seriously the threats against him. All this leads Reporters Without Borders to conclude he was killed because he was an opposition journalist, since no element has so far suggested any other motive. The tapes made by former secret policeman Mykola Melnychenko in President Kuchma’s office during discussions between top officials are just another confirmation of this. An opposition leader revealed their existence on 28 November 2000. In them, a person who appears to be the interior minister said he had people who could get rid of Gongadze – “real experts” ready to do “anything you want.”2. Very powerful officials have blocked the search for the truthA Reporters Without Borders fact-finding mission in January 2001 detailed the very serious mistakes made in the case. Prosecutor-general Potebenko, who was elected to parliament in March 2001, conducted the enquiry with the primary aim of protecting the government from grave accusations against it. There were not just “errors” due to “pressure” on the prosecutor-general’s office, as Mr Krüger claims, but a deliberate effort to hide the truth. Gongadze’s widow Myroslava filed a complaint before the European Court of Human Rights against the Ukrainian government on 16 September 2002 and the court has agreed to rule on it.Every effort seems to have been made to prevent the body from being identified. The discovery of a headless corpse by a farmworker on 2 November 2000 buried just below the surface near the small town of Tarashcha, near Kiev, was followed by a series of major procedural errors in the enquiry. A local expert did a first autopsy on the body. The estimated date of death was around the time Gongadze disappeared. The authorities were told of the body’s discovery and its condition, yet it was left for 13 days in the small unrefrigerated morgue in Tarashcha, which made later identification and autopsy more difficult. Gongadze’s family was not told the body had been found and when they heard the news from the media, they went to Tarashcha on 15 November to try to identify it. From then on, the prosecutor’s office made clear that it would keep tight control over the enquiry and put up all kinds of obstacles to any parallel efforts to solve the case. The body was secretly taken to Kiev on 15 November without the knowledge of the head of the Tarashcha morgue. Only three days later did the Kiev regional prosecutor confirm it had been transferred to a morgue in the capital. The deputy interior minister announced on 16 November that the body had probably been buried for two years, in total contradiction with the result of the first autopsy. Gongadze’s widow was not allowed to try to identify it until 10 December, more than a month after it had been found. Citing President Kuchma’s 1998 veto of a law on setting up parliamentary enquiries, the prosecutor-general refused to cooperate with a commission parliament established to look into the case.Gongadze’s widow and mother were systematically kept at a distance from the enquiry and were refused information, subjected to deliberate delays and contradictory statements, especially about identification of the body.The new prosecutor-general, Sviatoslav Piskun, granted Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard the status of a legal representative of the Gongadze family on 5 August 2002, as well as permission to examine the results of previous analyses and, in January this year, to make an independent analysis which enabled the body to be definitively identified. Local prosecution officials in Tarashcha, who had been convicted of forging documents, negligence and abuse of authority, were amnestied in April and May.Although the new prosecutor-general has shown signs of goodwill, the enquiry has not yet produced any concrete results and Gongadze’s killers are still at large. August 19, 2003 – Updated on January 20, 2016 Reporters Without Borders condemns Council of Europe report on Gongadze case Receive email alerts September 7, 2020 Find out more Ukraine escalates “information war” by banning three pro-Kremlin media News News News UkraineEurope – Central Asia March 26, 2021 Find out more February 26, 2021 Find out more Help by sharing this information to go furtherlast_img read more