Independent journalist receives death threat in Ukraine

New York, March 19, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by a death threat made by a local businessman against independent bi-weekly Rivne Vechirne reporter Vlad Isayev for his critical articles.

Isayev was threatened as he covered a dispute between local businessman Anatoly Pekhotin and the owners of a private parking lot in the western Ukrainian city of Rivne on February 23. The businessman, who claimed he owned the parking lot, shot at the lot’s staff, while more than 20 men broke car windows with clubs, according to CPJ sources and local press reports.

When Pekhotin noticed Isayev taking pictures, he put a gun to his neck and said he would kill the journalist if he “continued to write about him as I have in the past,” Isayev told CPJ.

“We are alarmed by the failure of authorities to investigate a clear threat on the life of our colleague Vlad Isayev,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “We call on prosecutors to conduct a thorough investigation into this ugly incident and safeguard Isayev’s right to practice journalism without fear of reprisal.”

Isayev filed a complaint with the police immediately after the incident. On March 15 the local prosecutor dismissed his complaint due to a lack of evidence, despite testimony of several witnesses and the journalist’s pictures, Isayev told CPJ.

Isayev wrote several articles about Pekhotin’s business activities in 2005 and 2006. Isayev told CPJ he received threats after publishing these articles. “He threatened me in the past, now he threatened me with a weapon – I don’t know how this will end tomorrow,” the journalist told CPJ.

CPJ research shows local police and prosecutors have been reluctant to investigate several recent attacks against journalists in Ukraine. Police in the western city of Lviv waited 10 days before opening an investigation into a February 2006 arson attack that destroyed the offices of the independent online newspaper Vgolos. The paper had criticized local politicians before the attack.