Press freedom took a turn for the better in 2005 thanks to the victory of the “Orange Revolution” and the arrest of the killers of journalist Georgy Gongadze. But the improvement was significantly offset by many physical attacks on investigative journalists and threats to them.
The state prosecutor’s office announced in early March that opposition journalist Georgy Gongadze, who was murdered in 2000, had been kidnapped outside his home in a car by three policemen and the former head of the interior ministry’s intelligence service, Gen. Olexi Pukach, who strangled him and buried his body in the Tarashcha Forest.
A probable key witness in the case, ex-President Leonid Kuchma’s interior minister, Yuri Kravchenko, died in suspicious circumstances, supposedly shooting himself in the head. Prosecutor-general Sviatoslav Piskun declared the Gongadze case closed on 8 August and policemen Valery Kostenko, Mikola Protasov and Oleksandr Popovych were accused of kidnapping and killing the journalist. Gen. Pukach is being sought by Interpol. But the prosecutor’s office has still not said who ordered the killing, despite President Viktor Yushchenko’s repeated promises.
Eight journalists were physically attacked during the year for doing their job. Natalia Vlassova, of the TV station Kanal 34, was badly beaten up in the eastern city of Dniepropetrovsk on 4 October after exposed corruption in local political parties. The owner-editor of the independent weekly Oberih received a death threat after investigating embezzlement in the city government of Pereyaslav-Khmelnytsky, south of Kiev.
Volodymyr Lutiev, editor of the weekly Yevpatoriskaya Nedelia, was arrested for no official reason in Sebastopol on 30 June after criticising a contested election. He was still being held at the end of the year, despite staging a 47-day hunger strike.