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Ukraine15 July 2003

Journalist and press freedom representative killed in car crash

Reporters Without Borders called today on the Ukrainian government to thoroughly investigate the cause of a 14 July road accident that killed newspaper and TV editor Vladimir Efremov, a critic of President Leonid Kuchma.

Efremov, correspondent in the city of Dniepropetrovsk of the press freedom group the Institute of Mass Information (IMI), was editor of the newspapers Sobor and Dniepropetrovsk and founder of the regional TV station TV11, which have backed former prime minister Pavlo Lazarenko, a Kuchma opponent. He had agreed to give evidence at a 18 August hearing in the United States of charges against Lazarenko for embezzlement of public funds.

Reporters Without Borders called on interior minister Yuri Smirnov to determine the cause of the crash, in which Efremov’s car collided with a lorry near the eastern town of Verkhnyodniprovsk. It requested that the car be carefully examined. The local representative of the interior ministry, Andriy Zinchuk, has been named to head the investigation.

Efremov had said in the government paper Golos Ukrainy on 13 October 2001 that he feared he would be killed because of his journalistic activities, probably in a staged road accident.

The authorities seized the transmitters of TV11 on 17 March 1999, after shutting the station down on 9 March for supposed technical reasons, although the station had a broadcasting licence valid until 2001. Efremov was arrested on 13 January 1999 and jailed for two days in Dniepropetrovsk for alleged irregularities in a 1995 loan agreement involving Sobor. Efremov said he had fully repaid the loan and said he had probably been arrested because TV11 had broadcast a New Year message from Lazarenko instead the one from Kuchma that all other stations had broadcast.

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