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Politicians continue to obstruct justice for murdered journalist

On 16 September, journalists in Ukraine and around the world marked the 10th anniversary of the murder of journalist Gyorgy Gongadze. His murder is emblematic of the impunity that permits Ukrainian politicians and other powerful figures to silence critical journalists. Last week, after an investigation riddled with errors and the death of key witnesses, prosecutors announced that the late general Yuriy Kravchenko ordered Gongadze's 2000 murder, report the Kiev-based Institute of Mass Information (IMI), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and ARTICLE 19.

Gongadze was a muckraking Internet journalist and the co-founder of the news website "Ukrainska Pravda". He disappeared on his way home on 16 September 2000; his decapitated body was found on 3 November 2000. He had regularly been harassed and intimidated by authorities and the secret service because of his criticism of the government.

It is well known that former President Leonid Kuchma, current parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn and others discussed harming Gongadze days before he was killed, because of taped conversations unearthed by a former presidential bodyguard. "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," says IMI.

Kravchenko was found dead in March 2005 on the day he was to be interrogated about Gongadze's murder. Authorities claimed it was a suicide, despite the impossibility of Kravchenko shooting himself twice in the head.

The way that senior politicians have obstructed and sabotaged the investigation has encouraged other officials to act with impunity against journalists, says IMI. Recently, Vasily Klimentyev, an investigative reporter and editor, disappeared in Kharkiv on 11 August.

On 16 September, ARTICLE 19 and IMS hosted an international conference in Kiev to redefine advocacy strategies to combat impunity: "10 years on - no justice for Gyorgy Gongadze - the need to find new ways to fight impunity." Media professionals and representatives of NGOs from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine attended to discuss the protection of journalists and the lack of effective government interventions to prevent and investigate abuses.

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