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Covering the UEFA football championships?

(IFJ/IFEX) - 5 June 2012 - Journalists covering the upcoming UEFA football championships have been urged to read up on the press freedom situation in the Ukraine before the start of the competition on Friday 8 June in Warsaw.

A leaflet produced by the European Federation of Journalists highlights cases of unsolved killings and disappearances of journalists in the country, as well as examples of media being taken off air or harassed because of their work.

The leaflet includes background on the case of journalist Georgy Gongadze, publisher of the Internet journal Ukrainska Pravda, who was kidnapped in September 2000 and his body found later beheaded. The journalist had been investigating corruption at senior levels of the Ukrainian government led by former President Leonid Kuchma. Revelations of secret tape recordings of Kuchma ordering Interior Ministry' services to kill Gongadze sparked accusations of his involvement. Twelve years later and the trial of his murderer, General Pukach, is currently underway, but is being inexplicably held behind closed doors.

Arne König, EFJ President, has said: "The Gongadze case is pivotal for the fight against impunity in Ukraine. Holding the proceedings in secret makes a mockery of the authorities' stated determination to find those who ordered his killing and fight impunity."

The International Federation of Journalists, the global organisation of which the EFJ is a part, has also backed the campaign to use the Euro 2012 championships as an opportunity to step up the pressure on the Ukrainian authorities.

Jim Boumelha, IFJ President, said: "I urge all the journalists covering UEFA Euro 2012 to spare a thought for their colleagues in Ukraine who have been enduring for years threats, physical attacks and censorship. For over a decade, law enforcement authorities have been dragging their feet in their investigations of the killing of Georgy Gongadze and the disappearance of Vasyl Klymentyev. Despite repeated promises by President Yanukovych to ensure justice, the record of his government has been to gag journalists and stifle their right to inform."

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