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Journalist missing; critical media under attack

A Ukrainian journalist who covers corruption, local politics and social injustice has disappeared, report the Kiev-based Institute of Mass Information (IMI), the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations (CJES), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the International Press Institute (IPI). They say press freedom has been deteriorating in Ukraine since President Viktor Yanukovych came to power in February 2009.

Vasyl Klymentyev, chief editor and reporter for the Kharkiv-based weekly newspaper "Novyi Stil", has been missing since 11 August. He was last seen getting into a BMW, accompanied by an unidentified individual. After two days of searching for the journalist, local police initiated criminal proceedings for "premeditated murder." On 17 August the journalist's mobile phone was reportedly found on a boat on a lake in the eastern region of Kharkiv.

Local journalists say his disappearance is linked to his work. "He went to meet an informer and disappeared. An alert was immediately issued because he was expected to come back," said one colleague. Another colleague said, "He has been publishing very extensive reports fearlessly."

"Novyi Stil" is known for reporting on corruption in local government and law enforcement. In a recent article, Klymentyev had criticised a local prosecutor and the head of the regional fiscal police. He had been threatened after refusing money to cover up a story about a regional prosecutor accused of accepting bribes to close criminal cases, reports the Associated Press.

IPI sent an open letter to President Yanukovych in early August, urging him to address a rise in attacks on journalists and the culture of impunity in the country, along with other press freedom violations. Recently, a Kiev court decided to cancel the allocation of broadcasting frequencies to two privately run TV channels - TVi and 5 Kanal. TVi journalists said a number of topics became "off limits" after Yanukovych came to power. In a separate incident, "bloggers were 'invited' for questioning by the security services and asked to sign that they would refrain from saying anything negative about the government," said one journalist. Journalists have been assaulted by police and security forces, while courts refuse to defend them.

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