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Ukraine30 September 2005

Celebrity magazine editor targeted by bomb on eve of issue about president’s son

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Reporters Without Borders said it was shocked by a home-made bomb attack early today on the car of Walid Harfouch, the managing editor of the Ukrainian celebrity magazine Paparazzi, saying it was clearly aimed at preventing an issue due out later today with a cover story about President Viktor Yushchenko’s son Andriy.

“No one can place themselves above the law and try to pressure a publication in this way,” the organisation said. “We remind President Yushchenko of his promises about press freedom, and the fact that the call for an end to censorship was a battle cry of the Orange Revolution, and we urge him to take energetic measures to ensure that those responsible for this attack are quickly identified and punished.”

The attack took place at about 3 a.m. today, when several unidentified persons broke the windows of Harfouch’s car and then threw a home-made bomb at it, causing it damage. The car was parked outside his home in the centre of Kiev, quite near the presidential office. Police arrived at the scene immediately.

The English-language Kiev Post had revealed on 22 September that the cover story of the 30 September issue of Paparazzi, which has a circulation of 62,000, would be about the president’s son’s vacation in Turkey. The magazine’s editorial staff immediately began receiving verbal pressure from officials but decided to stick with the planned cover story.

“The magazine should come out this evening, everything is ready,” Harfouch told Reporters Without Borders today. “This attack is clearly designed to intimidate us and prevent Paparazzi from being published. I got home last night at about 11 p.m. and I have the feeling that I was followed. Everything was clearly well-prepared.” Harfouch is currently being questioned by the police.

Today’s cover is headlined “How the tsarevitch spent his holidays” and shows Andriy Yushchenko in a suggestive pose with his girl-friend.

Omar Harfouch, the magazine’s editor, was previously the target of intimidation after publishing photos of the president’s son on 14 February. A month later, Andriy Yushchenko personally threatened him in the presence of many witnesses as he was dining in a Kiev restaurant. The president’s son was accompanied by bodyguards who showed their firearms in an obvious way.

“The president’s office went out of its way to reassure me after that incident but, there and then, I decided to leave Kiev,” Omar Harfouch said.

Andriy Yushchenko’s lavish lifestyle has often been in the news this summer and the press has taken to calling him the “son of God,” much to the president’s annoyance. “Act like a well-behaved journalist and not a contract killer,” the president snapped at a journalist on 28 July when questioned about his son at a press conference on 28 July. He later tried to defuse the tension by apologising to the reporter concerned.

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