His Excellency Leonid Kuchma
President of Ukraine
vul. Bankivska 11
Via Fax: 011-380-44-293-7364/291-6161/293-1001
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.
Aleksandrov, 45, was the director of Tor, an independent television company based in the city of Slavyansk, in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.
On the morning of July 3, unknown attackers assaulted Aleksandrov with baseball bats as he entered Tor's offices, according to local news reports. Tor deputy director Sergey Cherneta described the attack to the regional newspaper Donbass: "All of a sudden we heard...blows and screams, after that we heard a moan. I ran downstairs.... Our manager was lying in the lobby in a pool of blood with his head cracked open. Two large baseball bats were left nearby."
Aleksandrov was rushed to the local city hospital where he underwent surgery. The journalist never regained consciousness. He died from the head injuries on the morning of July 7.
Aleksandrov's colleagues believe the murder was connected to his television program, "Bez Retushi," ("Without Censorship") which featured investigative coverage of government corruption and organized crime. The program often criticized Slavyansk municipal authorities.
Soon after the attack, Donetsk regional prosecutor Viktor Pshonka launched an official investigation. Donetsk regional governor Viktor Yanukovich and Ukrainian internal affairs minister Yury Smirnov are directly involved in supervising the investigation, according to the local press. The chief of the Donetsk Ministry of Internal Affairs, Gen. Vladimir Malyshev, stated that revenge was the leading motive in the murder but did not elaborate.
Aleksandrov became well known in 1998 when prosecutors brought a criminal case against him for insulting the honor and dignity of parliamentary delegate Aleksandr Leshchinsky. The journalist had publicly referred to Leshchinsky as a "vodka king" whose business caused human suffering. The Slavyansk city court found the journalist guilty and banned him from practicing journalism for five years.
In late 1998, the court decided to review its decision after receiving a barrage of criticism from Ukrainian journalists and international human rights organizations.
Leshchinsky withdrew his defamation complaint against Aleksandrov last year. That removed the immediate legal threat but did not clear the journalist's name, since his conviction was still technically under review. Claiming damage to his professional reputation, Aleksandrov appealed to the European Court of Human Rights.
As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues around the world, CPJ is deeply disturbed by this murder, particularly in light of the unresolved investigation into the murder of Internet journalist Georgy Gongadze in September 2000, along with other cases that in our view demonstrate a broad and ongoing effort to silence independent journalists in Ukraine.
We demand a thorough investigation into the murder of Igor Aleksandrov so that the perpetrators may be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We also urge Your Excellency to hold Donetsk regional officials and Slavyansk city officials accountable for the investigation's progress.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We await your reply.
Ann K. Cooper