The government failed to deliver on President Viktor Yanukovych's promises to investigate official harassment of news media and ensure justice in the 2000 murder of online journalist Georgy Gongadze. Prosecutors indicted former President Leonid Kuchma on abuse-of-office charges in connection with the Gongadze slaying, alleging that he had ordered subordinates to silence the journalist. But after the Constitutional Court found that a key audiotape was inadmissible, a trial court in Kyiv dismissed the case in December. The ongoing trial of Aleksei Pukach, the former Interior Ministry general charged with strangling Gongadze, was marked by irregularities, delays, and secrecy. The developments were seen as significant setbacks in the fight against impunity. As in past years, the domestic press faced persistent danger as reporters endured threats, physical attacks, and censorship. Investigators reported no progress in the case of Vasyl Klymentyev, an editor who went missing in 2010 after reporting on alleged local corruption. Kharkiv-based cable television carriers stopped carrying programming from the independent news outlet ATN in August, according to press reports. ATN said regional authorities pressured the carriers to drop its critical news coverage.
The Institute of Mass Information, a Kyiv-based press freedom group, documented at least a dozen assaults directly related to journalism. Ukrainian officials, however, appeared to play down the incidence of anti-press violence. Addressing parliament in March, Interior Minister Anatoly Mogilev told lawmakers that the vast majority of attacks against journalists were not work-related, according to local press reports.
Kuchma was long accused of having ordered Gongadze’s murder, but it took prosecutors more than a decade to indict the former leader. In September 2010, investigators announced that the late Interior Minister Yuri Kravchenko had ordered the killing. Kravchenko was found dead in 2005 with two gunshot wounds to the head. Authorities said Kravchenko had committed suicide, a claim greeted at the time with wide skepticism.
Gongadze case timeline:
September 16, 2000: Gongadze was abducted and murdered outside Kyiv.
October 2003: Prosecutors charged Interior Ministry Gen. Aleksei Pukach; he fled after his release on appeal.
March 2008: Three police officers were convicted in Gongadze murder.
July 2009: Pukach was arrested in northwestern Ukraine; his trial started in July 2011.
March 2011: Prosecutors indicted Kuchma on “abuse of office” charges.
December 2011: A Kyiv district court dropped charges against Kuchma, saying that evidence in the case against him had been illegally obtained.
In April, a court convicted two defendants in the March 2010 assault on Vasyl Demyaniv, editor of the independent newspaper Kolomyiskiy Vestnik, press reports said. The court declared robbery the motive. Demyaniv decried the verdict, telling reporters the defendants were innocent and that he was attacked in retaliation for his critical reporting on local government in the western city of Kolomyya. Journalists have pointed to broad impunity in anti-press attacks, an assertion supported by CPJ research on journalist murders.
Justice in Ukrainian journalist murders:
5: Journalist murders since 1992
3: Cases with no convictions, complete impunity
2: Cases in which assailants were convicted, but no masterminds
0: Cases in which both assailants and masterminds were convicted
Authorities reported no progress in the disappearance of Klymentyev, editor of the Kharkiv-based newspaper Novyi Stil, who was last seen on August 11, 2010. At least three other journalists for Ukrainian news outlets have gone missing since 1996, according to CPJ research.
The independent broadcasters TVi and Channel 5 said they would appeal Ukraine's politicized denial of broadcast frequencies by bringing a case to the European Court of Human Rights. The broadcasters alleged that Valery Khoroshkovsky, head of Ukraine's National Security Service, had improperly influenced the decision in order to benefit a rival company, the Inter Media Group. News accounts said Inter Media was owned by Khoroshkovsky and run by his wife.
Timeline of a broadcast battle:
January 2010: In a national tender overseen by government regulators, TVi won 33 broadcast frequencies, and Channel 5 was awarded 26 frequencies.
April 2010: Inter Media Group disputed the results in court and asked that they be revoked.
June 2010: A district court in Kyiv stripped TVi and Channel 5 of the frequencies.
January 2011: The Supreme Administrative Court of Ukraine denied the broadcasters' appeal.
Do you believe the free flow of information must be protected? Sign the #RightToReport petition and demand that President Obama immediately:
1. Issue a presidential policy directive prohibiting the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organizations.
2. Limit aggressive prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers.
3. Prevent the harassment of journalists at the U.S. border.
Or click here to see the full petition, and join leading journalists like Christiane Amanpour, The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the AP Kathleen Carroll, and Arianna Huffington in signing on.