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Ukraine27 July 2005

Journalist given suspended three-year prison for publishing phoney political advertising

Reporters Without Borders condemned the severity of a suspended three-year prison sentence against editor Vasyl Herus for publishing a bogus electoral programme for Viktor Yushchenko in the form of political advertising days ahead of the second round of presidential elections.

Herus, editor of weekly newspaper, Sim Dniv (Seven Days), was sentenced by the municipal court in Rivne, north-east Ukraine on 21 July 2005 for the 19 November 2004 article.

"We deplore the severity of this sentence against Vasyl Herus. The journalist did indeed display lack of care in publishing false information in advertising form," said Reporters Without Borders. "But one can only wonder why the author and whoever was behind this false electoral programme has not been investigated in this case."

The journalist signed a contract with the pro-Yanukovich Party of Regions to publish two articles entitled, "The political objectives of Victor Yushchenko" and "The political objectives of Viktor Yanukovich" in the form of advertising editorials and carried in Sim Dniv which has a circulation of 5,000.

"The content of the bogus political programme was in effect classic counter advertising, ascribing quite crazy political intentions to Viktor Yushchenko" admitted Svetlana Kolko, new editor of Sim Dniv. "But when the newspaper received it, the disk was already formatted in such a way that it was difficult to check the contents. We were taken in as well," she told Reporters Without Borders.

Judge Viktor Koukharets sitting at the Rivne municipal court, cited Article 161 (racial, national or religious discrimination) and Article 157 (infringing citizens’ electoral rights) of the criminal code to sentence Herus to three years in prison suspended for one year. He was also ordered to make a public apology to President Viktor Yushchenko.

Herus, who believes that he did comply with Ukraine’s advertising law, has decided to appeal.

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