Ukraine must hold independent probe in journalist beating

A protester holds pictures of Tetyana Chornovol, who was beaten and left in a ditch hours after publishing an article on the assets of a top government official. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich)

New York, December 27, 2013--The Ukrainian government must ensure that a thorough, independent, and transparent investigation is conducted in the brutal attack early Wednesday on prominent journalist Tetyana Chornovol, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Chornovol remains hospitalized in the capital, Kiev, with a concussion and multiple head injuries.

Chornovol was driving home in the early hours on Wednesday, when a sports utility vehicle ambushed and rammed into her car, according to recording taken with a video camera on the dashboard of the journalist's car, which was later published on the website of the independent Internet newspaper Ukrainska Pravda for which Chornovol writes.

The video, about six minutes long, shows an intense car chase, in which a dark Porsche Cayenne SUV is seen repeatedly cutting off Chornovol and slamming into her car. At one point, the SUV's license plates are clearly legible, and two men are seen getting out of the vehicle and walking toward Chornovol's, with a third apparently remaining behind the wheel. After a struggle, the much larger vehicle pushed Chornovol's off the road, according to press reports.

In a video taken at her hospital bed, a heavily swollen Chornovol recounted the assault that ensued. She said at least two assailants broke her car's window and attacked her. "I jumped out, tried to run. I was caught and they began beating me on the head," Chornovol said. "They didn't say anything. They just hit."

"The investigation into the shocking attack on Tetyana Chornovol must examine her journalism as the motive," CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. "In order to ensure that the probe is fair, the government must allow for independent oversight to prevent any perception of conflict of interest."

Just before the assault, Chornovol published a lengthy investigation on Ukrainska Pravda's blog about the construction of a lavish country house for Ukraine's interior minister, Vitaly Zakharchenko, in the village of Pidhirtsi. Zakharchenko has been heavily criticized recently for police brutality in the dispersal of anti-government protests that have swept Ukraine over the past month. Zakharchenko is the most senior official with direct authority over police involved, according to international press reports.

Previously, Chornovol had exposed the opulent lifestyle of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. In August 2012, the journalist penetrated the heavily guarded compound where the presidential mansion is located, and took photographs of the grounds--complete with private helipads and a pet ostrich coop--for three hours before being detained, according to the press reports.

Three suspects in Chornovol's attack have been detained, but authorities have not released any details, press reports said.

  • For more data and analysis, visit CPJ's Ukraine page.

December 27, 2013 2:52 PM ET |

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