WASHINGTON—Leaders of the U.S. Helsinki Commission today marked the 10th anniversary of the kidnapping and murder of Ukrainian journalist Heorhiy Gongadze and expressed concern over recent reversals of media and other freedoms in Ukraine.
“I am disturbed that ten years after Mr. Gongadze’s murder, and five years after the Orange Revolution sparked democratic progress in Ukraine, we now see backsliding with respect to media freedoms there,” said U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. “I am especially concerned over the recent disappearance of Ukrainian journalist Vasil Klymentyev, who, like Gongadze, was known for his investigative reporting. I welcome President Yanukovich’s stated commitment to fully investigate the circumstances surrounding Klymenteyev’s disappearance. We must never lose sight of the fact that free media plays an essential role in a truly democratic society.”
“While three of the murderers of reporter Heorhiy Gongadze have been tried and convicted, we await the day that all those involved in commissioning this crime will be brought to justice. Ukrainians can be proud of the progress they have made to establish a democracy rooted in respect for human rights and democratic elections,” Co-Chairman Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) said. “However, the recent deterioration in freedoms of media and assembly, and the growing intimidation of journalists, academics, and non-governmental organizations by the Security Service of Ukraine, raise questions about the government’s fulfillment of its OSCE commitments to human rights and democracy.”
Ten years ago, the decapitated corpse of investigative journalist Heorhiy Gongadze was discovered in a forest outside Kyiv. While the perpetrators of the murder were convicted following the Orange Revolution, those who reportedly commissioned the crime have yet to be brought to justice. The anniversary of Gongadze’s death comes against the backdrop of protests by journalists, human rights and democracy activists in reaction to accelerated pressures against the media and civil society.
Gongadze was posthumously awarded in 2001 the Journalism and Democracy Prize by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly when Co-Chairman Hastings served as that body’s vice president.
The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Annual Session in Oslo passed Chairman Cardin’s resolution in July aimed at strengthening press freedoms and protection for investigative journalists across the 56-country OSCE region. The measure calls for countries to repeal criminal defamation laws, increase the free flow of information, and actively investigate and vigorously prosecute those responsible for threats against or physical attacks on journalists.