Appeal of human rights and media organizations on of 20th anniversary of murder of Georgy Gongadze
September 16th marked the 20th anniversary of the abduction and murder of Ukrainian journalist Georgiy Gongadze . The atrocious crime, as well as the released afterwards Major Melnychenko’s tapes, which gave rise to suspicions of involvement in the assassination of then-President Leonid Kuchma, scandalized the professional community and society and provoked mass protests that later escalated into protest action ”Ukraine without Kuchma”. But despite pressure from civil society and international community, the line has not been drawn under that case.
Although the perpetrators have been named and convicted, no instigators have been yet officially identified. And one of the executors, ex-general of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Oleksiy Pukach, sentenced to life imprisonment under the article “Contract murder”, can be set free, if the court of cassation mitigates his sentence. The consideration of the cassation appeal lasts for about four years.
Regretfully, the death of Gongadze has not been the only violent crime which targeted the journalist. During the years of Ukraine independence, according to monitoring and human rights organizations, several dozen journalists were killed. The final list has not yet been drawn up, and the perpetrators of most crimes have not been named.
On May 4, 2019, the journalist Vadym Komarov was brutally beaten in Cherkasy. After 46 days in a coma, he died. Komarov was uncomfortable with many influential people in Cherkasy, so he received regular threats. The crime still remains unsolved, and the perpetrators and customers go unpunished.
The murder of a journalist in Cherkasy did not attract the attention of politicians and highly rated mass media. It did not cause any public outcry and large-scale protests. A year later, Vadym Komarov's death is mentioned only by relatives and friends, as well as people and organizations whose job is to monitor the progress of such cases. For a year and a half, the police did not made public the results on progress of the case.
Among the most high-profile cases of recent times is the murder on July 20, 2016 in Kyiv of journalist Pavel Sheremet. The trial of those accused of murder is on, but all detainees deny involvement in the crime and call the prosecution being politically motivated. The investigation into the instigators of the murder has been separated into a separate case and is still ongoing.
These cases are only the clearest evidence of a large-scale and alarming trend. Because Ukraine is an independent democracy that values freedom of speech and the safety of citizens, including those who fight for the truth, journalists should not face pressure, be attacked or killed, and cases against perpetrators and customers should be investigated rather than fabricated by law enforcement.
We, the undersigned, urge the Ukrainian authorities to ensure a transparent investigation into these cases, to identify and name the instigators of these murders, and to prevent the release of the perpetrators whose involvement has been proven. We also urge to protect journalists and to take systematic measures needed to protect citizens' right to information.
Georgy Gongadze Prize
Ukrainian branch of the International PEN Club
ZMINA Human Rights Center
Institute of Mass Information
Center for Civil Liberties
Detector Media NGO
Lviv Media Forum NGO