TV crew violently attacked at a protest rally in Ukraine

New York, September 29, 2009—The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by the violent attack on the crew of an opposition Russian-language news channel in Odessa, and urges Ukrainian authorities to thoroughly investigate the incident.

Today, several unidentified men attacked ATV cameraman Dmitry Dokunov and reporter Olesya Klintsova when they approached a group for an interview at a protest rally outside a local court that was hearing a case against the station, news Web site Lenta reported. The attackers broke Dokunov’s camera and slashed his wrist with a knife when he tried to retrieve his equipment. Klintsova was hit in the head with a heavy object, Lenta said. Police officers present at the rally did not intervene, an ATV video report shows.

Dokunov remains hospitalized after a four-hour-long surgery; Klintsova was diagnosed with a concussion, ATV staffers told CPJ. Galina Vygovskaya, the station’s editor, said local police qualified the attack as a robbery and opened an investigation.

“We condemn the violence against Dmitry Dokunov and Olesya Klintsova, and strongly urge Ukrainian authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova. “Authorities should investigate why police officers present at the protest rally did not move to stop the assault on these journalists.”

ATV channel supporters and opponents gathered today outside an Odessa administrative court, which was reviewing a lawsuit authorities filed in 2007 against the broadcaster that aimed to withdraw its license, local press reported. (The hearing was postponed until October 20 because a judge was ill.) According to Vygovskaya, the state broadcasting agency, the National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council, has been trying to shut down ATV because of its critical position toward nationalist groups and local and national authorities.

According to the independent news Web site Rosbalt-Ukraina, Dokunov filmed a high-ranking police officer outside the court talking to a group of young men, reportedly members of a Ukrainian nationalist movement. These were the same men who attacked the ATV journalists at a protest later that day, Dokunov said.