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Ukraine11 October 2005

Call for opening of independent investigation into Paparazzi attack case

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Reporters Without Borders urged President Viktor Yushchenko to open an independent and transparent investigation after a Molotov cocktail attack on the car of managing editor of the monthly Paparazzi as it was about to publish photos and an article critical of the president’s son.

In the early morning attack on 30 September, a car belonging to Walid Harfouch, which was parked in front of his Kiev home, was badly damaged after the windows were broken and the firebomb hurled in.

“Journalists on this magazine have been suffering constant harassment and we remind the authorities that there can be no exception to the principle of protection of sources,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

The 62,000 circulation magazine was about to publish photos of the president’s son, Andriy Yushchenko, along with an article headlined, “How the tsarevich spends his holidays”.

The president ordered Interior Minister Yuri Lutsenko to investigate the case on 2 October. At a press conference the following day, Lutsenko said that Harfouch had not made any link between his newspaper and the attempted assault.

“That is untrue”, Harfouch himself told Reporters Without Borders. “The record of my statement has been posted on our website”.

“They are obviously determined to brush this case under the carpet and we are victims of a campaign of denigration on the part of the authorities. Journalists on Paparazzi are suffering constant harassment from the Fraud Squad who want them to reveal who took the photos of Andriy Yushchenko” said Harfouch.

The magazine’s offices have been occupied by police officers since 3 October. The magazine had a tax investigation slapped on it on 5 October. The investigators have not interviewed any of the witnesses to the attack but seized all the photos of the president’s son that were at the magazine.

“They accused us of wanting to stage “a publicity stunt” for the magazine and to get the insurance for my car. That is absurd. The car was brand new and hadn’t even been insured,” Harfouch added.

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