(IPI/IFEX) - In an 8 July 2002 letter to President H.E. Leonid Kuchma, IPI expressed strong concern about the threats and attempts at intimidation by what seem to be members of the Council for National Security and Defence of Ukraine (CNSDU) against Viktor Vorotnikov, editor-in-chief at "Grani", a Ukrainian newspaper.
According to information provided to IPI, the harassment of Vorotnikov stems from "Apocalypse", an article by journalist Sergej Romanovskogo, which was published on the Internet version of "Grani" on 14 June. The article described the business dealings of the secretary of the CNSDU, Yevgeniy Marchuk, an ex-KGB general, including the smuggling of Ukrainian weapons to war zones embargoed by the UN Security Council.
Following publication of the article, Vorotnikov was contacted by telephone and ordered to appear before the Security Service of Ukraine. He was told that he had no choice but to appear. At the meeting, which took place on 19 June, Vassily Sitarom, acting chairman of CNSDU, demanded that Vorotnikov publicly withdraw the allegations made in the article, or else he would face "being destroyed." Vorotnikov was also asked for his private address and for that of Romanovskogo. He refused to reveal the addresses, and Vorotnikov was again threatened. Vorotnikov then asked Sitarom if he could print the statements just made by Sitarom, but the request was turned down.
Vorotnikov has since asked for assistance from Ukrainian state organs that serve to protect his rights, but has received no support from any of them. A campaign of telephone threats, including thinly veiled death threats, has instead intensified, and Vorotnikov has also complained about being followed by two alternating cars.
IPI believes that these crude restrictions on journalists and media outlets are gross violations of everyone's right to "seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers", as guaranteed by Article 19 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The organisation considers threats and intimidation of journalists by state employees as a serious infringement of basic human rights.
Send appeals to the president:
- calling on him to ensure that these acts are halted immediately and unconditionally, and that any complaints against media content are resolved through the use of civil litigation only
- requesting that he issue a public statement expressly guaranteeing the safety of Vorotnikov
- asking him to ensure that journalists in Ukraine are allowed to carry out their profession safely and without further harassment
H.E. Leonid Kuchma
11 Bankova St.
Office of the President
Please copy appeals to the source if possible.