Investigative journalist attacked, tapes taken

New York, August 19, 2004— An investigative journalist working on a story about government corruption was beaten in the middle of the day on a main street in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Zaporozhye, and taped interviews for his article were taken.

An unknown assailant intercepted Dmitry Shkuropat, a correspondent for the independent weekly Iskra (Spark), about 1:30 p.m on August 17 and began beating him without explanation, according to Shkuropat and local press reports. Shkuropat, who was on his way to Iskra‘s newsroom, fell to the ground and lost consciousness.

In a telephone interview with CPJ today, Shkuropat said the assailant took a bag containing two tape recorders with interviews for his pending story. He said the taped material described alleged corruption involving local and regional authorities.

Shkuropat was with a colleague from the news agency UNIAN, but she was not harmed and nothing was taken from her.

Press reports said local police have opened an investigation. Attempts by CPJ to reach police for comment were unsuccessful.

Iskra‘s director, Viktor Ilichyov, told CPJ that the newspaper often receives intimidating phone calls from local business and political authorities after publishing critical articles. He refused to identify the callers, saying he feared retaliation.

Ilichyov said he believes Shkuropat was targeted for his work. “Given the topics that Dmitry investigates,” he said, “this attack cannot be a random robbery.” For the past two years, Shkuropat has reported on regional crime and government corruption.

Two months ago, Shkuropat said, several unknown men threatened his girlfriend. The assailants told her that she would be harmed unless Shkuropat stopped his investigative reporting, he said.

“The attack on Shkuropat is very disturbing. We urge Ukrainian authorities to investigate this case aggressively and bring those responsible to justice,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said.