(IMI/IFJ/IFEX) - 16 September 2010 - On 16 September, journalists in Ukraine and around the world will mark the tenth anniversary of the murder of our colleague, Gyorgy Gongadze. On this occasion we once again call on the Ukrainian authorities to seriously investigate those who ordered the killing.
We are deeply concerned by recent reports that the late general Yuriy Kravchenko is to be named as the person responsible for ordering Gongadze's murder and particularly the failure to identify any motivation that allegedly provoked Kravchenko to order Gongadze's killing. Given the extent to which the investigation has been deliberately dragged out, obstructed and ridden with serious errors, this latest move looks like an attempt to conceal the identities of the real instigators and to protect them from punishment by intentionally switching the guilt to the late Kravchenko.
We appeal to Ukrainian society and the international community to demand that the investigation continues until all those responsible for ordering Gognadze's murder have been identified.
This negligence follows a persistent pattern. Even before the arrest of Pukach, the man charged with his murder, questions about the instigators of the crime that clearly arise from information long available publicly have not been investigated. Specific issues raised in that regard – by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, by ourselves, and by our Ukrainian colleagues – have been almost completely ignored.
Most obviously, major Mykola Melnychenko, who tape-recorded the incriminating conversations about Gongadze in Kuchma's office, has never been formally questioned by the investigators. This is necessary in order for the recordings to be used as evidence. Within a few weeks, he will be protected by the statute of limitations and this chance will be lost.
The Gongadze case has come to epitomise the impunity with which politicians and other powerful people conspire to silence journalists. It is common knowledge that former president Leonid Kuchma, current parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn and others discussed harming Gongadze, and that a few days later he was dead. But, ten years on, none of the participants in those conversations, nor any of those who organised the killing, have been held to account in court.
The lamentable failure of justice in the Gongadze case has certainly encouraged other politicians and officials who have threatened, bullied and intimidated journalists. The chances of being punished for terrorising journalists remain too low.
Over the last ten years, we have warned repeatedly that the refusal to pursue the Gongadze case vigorously, and the way that senior politicians of various parties have obstructed and sabotaged the investigation, would encourage other officials to act with impunity against journalists.
The importance of bringing to justice those who instigated Gongadze's killing has been tragically underlined by the disappearance, and feared murder, of Vasily Klimentyev, the investigative reporter and editor, in Kharkiv on 11 August.
Internal affairs minister, Vasily Mogilev, has stated that current and former law enforcement officers are under suspicion in the Klimentyev case. The impunity with which those who instigated Gongadze's killing can only have encouraged them.
On this anniversary of Gyorgy's tragic death, we once again call on:
- the Ukrainian authorities to review and renew the investigation into those who ordered the killing, and to ensure that they are brought to justice;
- the Ukrainian authorities to instigate criminal proceedings against senior officials who have deliberately obstructed the investigation;
- governments and civil society across Europe to continue the fight against impunity for those in positions of power who sanction and organise violence against journalists.
International Federation of Journalists
Non-IFEX member signatories:
The Gongadze Foundation
National Union of Journalists of UK and Ireland