Igor Aleksandrov

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Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists is heartened by your stated commitment to improve the poor press freedom climate in Ukraine. There is much to be remedied--and many benefits to be gained--as your administration ushers in what is widely hoped to be a new democratic era.

Former President Leonid Kuchma's decade of corrupt and authoritarian rule was marked by government harassment, intimidation, and suppression of the independent news media. Most alarming were the unsolved murders of several journalists, which together created a culture of lawlessness and self-censorship.
During 2002, President Leonid Kuchma's relationship with the United States hit an all-time low over suspicions that he sold a sophisticated radar system to Iraq. At home, his presidency was threatened by court rulings that opened a criminal case against him (and that were later overturned) for alleged involvement in the 2000 murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze. Increasingly isolated, Kuchma lashed out at critics in the press.
New York, November 19, 2002—A body suspected to be that of Mykhailo Kolomyets, director of Ukrainski Novyny news agency, was found on October 30 hanging from a tree in a forest in northwestern Belarus, near the city of Maladzechna, said a news report that Ukrainski Novyny published today.

Kolomyets' colleagues at the news agency said that he did not show up for work on October 21, and that they reported him missing to law enforcement authorities a week later. According to Ukrainian police, the journalist had traveled to neighboring Belarus on October 22, where he telephoned a friend, Lyubov Ruban, who said that Kolomyets informed her that he was planning to commit suicide.
New York, September 13, 2002—Two years after the disappearance of Ukrainian journalist Georgy Gongadze, the Committee to Protect Journalists is dismayed by the lack of progress in the government's inquiry into this case.

"President Leonid Kuchma's government continues to obstruct the official inquiry," said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. "Journalists in Ukraine will not feel safe until the government's role in Gongadze's disappearance is fully clarified, and those responsible for his abduction and death are behind bars."
New York, May 17, 2002—The man accused in the July 2001 murder of prominent television journalist Igor Aleksandrov was acquitted today by the Donetsk Court of Appeals in eastern Ukraine.

The court ruled that there was not enough evidence to convict Yuri Verdyuk and instructed officials to reopen the murder investigation, according to local and international news reports.

Law enforcement officials arrested Verdyuk in August 2001, a month after Aleksandrov's murder. The General Prosecutor's Office charged him with the murder in mid-December.

The exhilarating prospect of broad press freedoms that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union a decade ago has faded dramatically in much of the post-communist world. A considerable decline in press freedom conditions in Russia during the last year, along with the stranglehold authoritarian leaders have imposed on media in Central Asia, the Caucasus, Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova, has put journalists on the defensive across the region.

Legal harassment, violence, and death continued to stalk Ukrainian journalists in 2001. Two murders underscored the continuing dangers, as did the stalled investigation into the murder of Internet journalist Georgy Gongadze. More than a year after Gongadze's headless corpse was discovered in November 2000, and after months of allegations about possible presidential involvement in his death, the case remained unsolved.
New York, January 3, 2002--A total of 37 journalists were killed worldwide as a direct result of their work in 2001, a sharp increase from 2000 when 24 were killed, according to CPJ research. At least 25 were murdered, almost all with impunity.

The dramatic rise is mainly due to the war in Afghanistan, where eight journalists were killed in the line of duty covering the US-led military campaign and a ninth journalist died of wounds sustained there two years ago. This was the highest death toll recorded for a single country since 1999, when 10 journalists were killed in Sierra Leone.


Nueva York, 3 de enero de 2002
-- Un total de 37 periodistas fueron asesinados en todo el mundo como resultado directo de su labor en el 2001, un brusco incremento en relación con el año 2000, cuando 24 fueron asesinados, según las investigaciones del Comité para la Protección de los Periodistas (CPJ, por sus siglas en inglés). Por lo menos 25 de ellos fueron asesinados, casi todos con impunidad.

El dramático aumento se debe principalmente a la guerra en Afganistán, donde ocho periodistas murieron cumpliendo su deber al cubrir la campaña militar encabezada por los Estados Unidos, y un noveno periodista murió de heridas que recibió en ese país hace dos años. Este es el mayor saldo de víctimas que se haya registrado en un solo país desde 1999, cuando 10 periodistas fueron asesinados en Sierra Leona.

July 10, 2001
His Excellency Leonid Kuchma
President of Ukraine
vul. Bankivska 11
Kyiv, Ukraine
Via Fax: 011-380-44-293-7364/291-6161/293-1001

Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an independent organization dedicated to the defense of press freedom worldwide, strongly condemns the recent murder of prominent television journalist Igor Aleksandrov.

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