Arson attack on investigative journalist

New York, June 7, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the arson attack on an investigative reporter and his family in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson. Attackers set fire June 3 to the apartment of Sergei Yanovsky, correspondent of the Kyiv-based newspaper Kievskiye Vedomosti.

The newspaper reported that unidentified assailants poured gasoline through the kitchen window of Yanovsky’s apartment at around 10:30 pm and tossed in two lit firecrackers. Yanovsky’s wife discovered the blaze. When the couple tried to flee with their 11-year-old son they could not open the only door to the apartment which had been blocked from the outside, the Ukrainian press reported. Firefighters arrived in time to save the three family members who were not injured, the daily Komsomolskaya Pravda v Ukraine reported.

Yanovsky and his colleagues linked the attack to his journalism. “There simply cannot be another explanation,” Nikolai Zakrevsky, Kievskiye Vedomosti editor-in-chief, told CPJ today in a telephone interview. “Sergei’s journalism investigations into Kherson officials’ wrongdoings have won him some powerful enemies in the region.”

Yanovsky has exposed corruption among Kherson politicians and businessmen. He also reported on irregularities in the election campaigns of candidates for city government in March, Zakrevsky said. “Just around the elections, Sergei received anonymous threats over the phone in response to his articles,” Zakrevksy added.

The Kherson Prosecutor’s Office opened an investigation into the attack under two articles of Ukraine’s criminal code – “arson” and “premeditated, attempted murder,” local press reports said.

“We are pleased that the Ukrainian authorities have opened an investigation into this horrendous attack which we will be monitoring closely, CPJ’s Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “Journalists cannot work when they fear for their safety and that of their loved ones.”

Press freedom conditions in Ukraine have improved since President Viktor Yushchenko came to power in January 2005, but journalists continue to face attack in retaliation for their work. See CPJ’s letter of March 24.