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Ukraine25 March 2004

Gongadze case: Prosecutor’s office refuses transparency at key stage in investigation

Reporters Without Borders has expressed dismay as the prosecutor’s office in Kiev refused for a second time to allow a supervisory role for five press freedom organisations at a key stage of the investigation.

The prosecutor’s office announced the arrival in Kiev on 24 March of the group of international experts who will carry out a fresh examination of the „Melnichenko tapes". Spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office Oxana Sokolova told the Mass Media Institute in a telephone conversation that it would not allow civil society involvement in the examination.

The international press freedom organisation stressed the examination was crucial to establish who was responsible for the murder of Géorgiy Gongadze and said that it would keep a close watch on the examination process and its results.

Reporters Without Borders, along with several journalists’ unions and press freedom organisations, have repeated a call to Ukraine’s prosecutor-general, Vassiliev Gennady, to allow civil society a supervisory role in a new expert examination of the "Melnichenko tapes".

The tapes, which were apparently made in the office of President Leonid Kutchma by former police officer Mykola Melnichenko, reportedly implicated the country’s highest authorities in the murder of Georgiy Gongadze, editor-in-chief of the online newspaper, whose decapitated body was found on 2 November 2000.

Gennady refused an earlier request on 6 February on the grounds that the Ukrainian criminal code and Constitution did not allow for this type of monitoring. Reporters Without Borders, the Mass Media Institute, Article 19, the (British) National Union of Journalists and the International Federation of journalists have therefore now repeated their call.

"Our sole objective is to ensure that this expert examination, the outcome of which is crucial, should be done in the utmost transparency in terms of the origin of the recordings, the choice of country where it will be carried out, along with the choice of the expert and equipment. Without this, the conclusions of this new examination would not be credible in the eyes of international public opinion," the organisations wrote to Mr. Gennady on 24 February.

"In view of the importance of this case for press freedom and the reputation of Ukraine, we are repeating our request. Legal arguments did not stand in the way in the examinations of Gongadze’s body in Switzerland and the United States. The ’civil participation’ that we seek today, could take whatever form you find most suitable and which would be compatible with Ukrainian law", the organisations added.

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