Independent editor assaulted in northeastern Ukraine

New York, April 17, 2014–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns a brutal attack on an editor in Ukraine and calls on authorities to conduct a thorough investigation and apprehend the perpetrators. The editor should also be provided with protection while he is recovering in the hospital, CPJ said. 

Two unidentified assailants approached Yevgeny Polozhy, editor-in-chief of the independent news website Panorama, on Monday night outside his apartment in the northeastern city of Sumy, according to a local press freedom group and news reports citing the editor’s wife. The assailants attacked Polozhy, beating him and hitting him on the head, and fled when the editor’s wife and neighbors came outside. They did not take Polozhy’s wallet, cellphone, or any documents, the Kiev-based press freedom group Institute of Mass Information (IMI) said.

Panorama said Polozhy was hospitalized with a broken skull, concussion, a dislocated elbow, and multiple bruises on his face. News reports said regional police were investigating the attack and were considering journalism as one of the motives.

The editor’s wife and his colleagues believe the attack was related to his journalism. In a series of articles in Panorama from October 2010 through January 2011, Polozhy alleged that a former regional government official had engaged in corruption and election fraud. Earlier this month, prosecutors opened an investigation into the official, the press reported.

“We call on Ukrainian authorities in Sumy to ensure that the perpetrators of the attack on Yevgeny Polozhy are apprehended and prosecuted, and that Polozhy’s safety is guaranteed while he recovers,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “Impunity must not be allowed to chill the investigative reporting that Polozhy and his publication represent.”

In January, Polozhy sent his family away from the region after receiving threats from unknown individuals, IMI reported. The press freedom group said Polozhy published an open letter the same month that said regional authorities and ruling party officials, whom he had criticized in his reports, should be held accountable if something happened to him or his family.

In an unrelated case in eastern Ukraine, Sergei Lefter, reporter for the Warsaw-based Open Dialogue Foundation, an NGO focused on promoting human rights and European values, was reported missing in the city of Sloviansk, news reports said. In a statement sent to CPJ, the foundation said that it last heard from Lefter on Tuesday evening and that he had not responded to phone calls since. The statement said the foundation was concerned that “kidnapping and detention of journalists in Eastern Ukraine may become a widespread practice.”

CPJ has documented multiple attacks on the press amid the ongoing tension in eastern Ukraine, where armed protesters have attacked and seized government buildings, replaced Ukrainian flags with Russian flags, and called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to send troops. Anti-press violations, including attacks, detention, and obstruction of journalists, have increased in the country in recent months.