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Ukraine30 May 2005

Editor receives death threats for exposés about local mayor

Reporters Without Borders condemned a death threat against editor and proprietor of an independent weekly, Mykahilo Kucherak, who was attacked in a street in Pereyaslav-Khmelnytski, south of Kiev on 14 May by two men, one armed with a knife and the other with a metal object.

They threatened to kill the editor of Oberih if he continued to publish articles about the mayor and opposition party member Grigory Sokur.

"It is unacceptable for a journalist to be subjected to such harassment when he is only doing his job," the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

"At his investiture, President Viktor Yushchenko said he would make press freedom a priority. We therefore call on Interior Minister, Yuri Lutsenko, to do his utmost to guarantee the safety of all journalists and particularly those working in the provinces, where harassment of local media persists, despite the high hopes raised by political change," it added.

"This is the second time that I have received a death threat", Kucherak told Reporters Without Borders. "The first time I was attacked was in autumn 2002 and it was particularly vicious. It took me a year to recover from it. I have continued to expose nepotism and the mayor’s embezzlement of council funds for private use and Grigory Sokur’s links with organised crime."

He added that his latest article headlined, ’The town no longer has a mayor’ that appeared on 29 April and which referred to dishonesty on the part of the electoral commission, had probably been "the trigger for this new attack".

Reporters Without Borders tried unsuccessfully to contact Sokur by telephone to obtain his reaction.

Oberih is one of two privately-owned newspapers in the town, which also has two municipal publications. Kucherak said the weekly had been through three restructurings in two years, because of threats and harassment which have also targeted its journalists. Some of them have chosen to resign from the paper for fear of reprisals.

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