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Ukraine21 January 2005

Open letter to President

Paris, 21 January 2005

Dear Mr President,

Reporters Without Borders would like to heartily congratulate you on your impending inauguration as president on 23 January.

We remain very concerned however about the numerous violations of press freedom in Ukraine over the past year. Thirteen journalists were physically attacked and four arrested just for doing their job.

Media coverage of the December presidential election campaign was heavily biased and censored, especially on both state and privately-owned radio and TV stations. Several journalists were also unfairly dismissed and access to and circulation of news was blocked on several occasions.

Reporters Without Borders therefore hopes you will show determination as president to strengthen the gains made by the media during the "Orange Revolution," such as abolition of censorship. We note your obligations in this respect as part of your wish to move close to the European Union (EU).

You said on Kanal 5 on 29 December that you wanted to "sign an agreement with journalists to ensure the government does not interfere with newspapers’ editorial lines" and that press freedom was "key to the country’s development." You added that Ukraine would "not be able to take its place among democratic nations" unless it had an impartial media.

If Ukraine wants to one day join the EU, European press freedom standards must quickly be adhered to.

We also ask you to rapidly show your determination to investigate the 16 September 2000 kidnapping and murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze. You said after you were poisoned: "I hope we find the killer, even though we already know it was the authorities who killed him."

Reporters Without Borders criticised the inadequate enquiry carried out after the murder. Its main aim seemed to be to shield the government from the serious accusations made against it.

The appointment of Sviatoslav Piskun as new prosecutor-general on 9 December last must not be just window-dressing. We hope he will quickly launch a new and serious investigation to find out who, right up to the most powerful people, was responsible for Gongadze’s disappearance and murder.

We would also appreciate you spelling out your promises as regards press freedom when you visit the Council of Europe in Strasbourg from 24 to 28 January.

We trust you will give your close attention to these matters.

My very best wishes.

Robert Ménard

  In this country
2 June - Ukraine
Potential witness’s death deals severe blow to probe into journalist’s murder
15 March - Ukraine
Three former policemen convicted of Gongadze murder but instigators have yet to identified
12 February - Ukraine
Gongadze murder trial resumes in Kiev
14 September - Ukraine
Political will lacking to solve Gongadze murder seven years after his death
27 August - Ukraine
Bomb hoax against Russian-language daily, photographer attacked

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