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Journalists launch hunger strike over suspected attempt by politician to take control of TV station

(IMI/IFEX) - The staff of Channel 34 in the city of Dniepropetrovsk launched a hunger strike on 24 November 2008 at 10:00 p.m. (local time). The employees of the Dniepropetrovsk Tele-visual Service (also known as Channel 34) are protesting the liquidation of the company and the firing of its management. The journalists announced the hunger strike on air, according to the national weekly "PIK Ukrainy".

From one day to the next, there has been expectation of an armed takeover of the station's premises ("an attack of raiders" as they say locally), says Rouslan Smirnov, a journalist with Channel 34. As a result, the journalists felt obliged to protest.

On 20 November, reports Smirnov, the Dniepropetrovsk municipal administration of fiscal registration received a statement, which was later found to be falsified. The document certified that a meeting of Channel 34 shareholders had taken place and that during the meeting a decision had been taken to liquidate the Dniepropetrovsk Tele-visual Service and to create a liquidation commission.

The journalists suspect an attempt by Mikhail Sokolov, a member of the Ukrainian parliament in the Julia Tymoshenko bloc (BYuT), to take control of the station.
On several previous occasions, Sokolov proposed that 36 per cent of the firm's shares be transferred to him, according to the president of the board of directors of the Dniepropetrovsk Tele-visual Service, Volodymir Bilyy, and the director of a municipal firm, the Dniepropetrovsk municipal studio, Evgueniy Nadion.

"We consider these acts to be contrary to the law and demand that the situation be redressed," said Smirnov.

"Until now, the station has been an independent media outlet, but from now on its independence is in question. The journalists believe that the political party representative, Mikhail Sokolov, wanted to turn it into a 'puppet' television station that carries out his orders. The politician wants to use Channel 34 as a political instrument."

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