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Ukraine11 August 2004

Sergiy Sholokh gets refugee status in US

11.08.04 - Sergiy Sholokh gets refugee status in US

Sergiy Sholokh, former head of Ukraine’s Radio Continent, has obtained refugee status in the United States, he announced on 10 August. He has lived in Poland for the past six months after being forced to leave Ukraine due to threats, many from the SBU state security police, and was given US refugee status on 6 August. His privately-owned opposition radio station was shut down on 3 March after re-broadcasting programmes put out by the Ukrainian service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE).

04.03.04 - Authorities silence Radio Continent and Radio Free Europe

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the action of the Ukrainian authorities in forcing privately-owned Radio Continent off the air yesterday by seizing its equipment. The move came just four days after the station began relaying the Ukrainian services of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE), and two weeks after RFE was pushed off the FM band in Ukraine.

The operation is clearly designed to silence two stations that are considered too critical of the government, the organisation said.

Reporters Without Borders and the Mass Media Institute had warned on 13 February that the decision to end FM retransmission of RFE in Ukraine was a worrying sign for press freedom, especially as it came just a few months before a presidential election.

Today, Reporters Without Borders called on the authorities to stop blocking Radio Continent’s broadcasts until the European Court of Human Rights issues a ruling on the dispute between the station and the government, which resulted in its losing its licence. The organisation also urged the authorities to take every necessary measure to ensure the safety of the station’s journalists.

The confiscation of Radio Continent’s transmitter and other equipment was carried out by police and officials from the state broadcasting agency, which assigns radio frequencies.

The station’s staff said the seizure was preceded by jamming of its signal, which began on 1 March, just two days after it began relaying RFE’s programming. Radio Continent general manager Sergiy Cholokh told the Mass Media Institute that he had received death threats from the SBU, the security service, which told him not to retransmit RFE.

Radio Continent also used to relay programmes of other foreign stations, including the BBC, Deutsche Welle, Voice of America and Polish Radio. It was stripped of its licence on 12 April 2001 on the grounds that it had not repaid a debt to the state. With the support of Reporters Without Borders and the Mass Media Institute, the station appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in June 2002 in an attempt to recover its licence.

Cholokh, who is also a witness in the investigation into the 2000 murder of journalist Georgiy Gongadze, has received many death threats and has been subjected to many other forms of harassment.

RFE is funded by the US congress. Its programming had been relayed on the FM band in Ukraine by a privately-owned radio station, Dovira, since 1998. But Dovira abruptly terminated the arrangement after a recent change of management.

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