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Ukraine28 October 2004

Internet increasingly the target of government repression

Reporters Without Borders today condemned an increase in the harassment of online publications and journalists in recent months in Ukraine, including the use of searches and lawsuits. "These intimidation attempts are particularly dangerous as they come just days before the presidential election," the organisation said.

On 18 October, police searched the second home near the eastern town of Kharkiv of Natalia Stativko, editor of the online magazine Obiektiv-No (http://news.media-objectiv.com). Stativko asked the local prosecutor’s office for an explanation two days later, and reported the search to the Kharkiv Law Enforcement group (KLEG), a regional human rights group, which said it was illegal.

Stativko said the search was linked to her work as a journalist and to the presidential election. Two weeks before, she spoke at a meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), denouncing violations of free expression in Ukraine.

Claiming to be looking for explosives, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) raided the home of Mikhaylo Svistovich at Irpin (near Kiev) on 22 October. Aged 35, Svistovich runs the opposition website Maidan (www.maidan.org.ua) and belongs to Pora, a youth opposition group whose members are often harassed by the authorities. He was interrogated at SBU headquarters the same day but was not charged.

The Union of the Youth of the Ukrainian Regions (Donestsk Oblast) - an organisation that backs Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych as presidential candidate - threatened to bring an action against the news websites Ukrayinska Pravda (www.pravda.com.ua) and Kashtanova Revolutsia (www.kashtan.org.ua) in July over allegedly false reports on 29 June about a student demonstration against rival presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko.

Ukrayinska Pravda was the target of a lawsuit brought on 23 April 2004 by Valeriy Vorotnyk, the editor of the weekly Antenna, and lawyer Maria Sambur over its articles about the murder in 2000 of journalist Georgy Gongadze. The case is due to come to trial in the next few months.




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