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Newspaper journalists complain of police harassment, intimidation

(IMI/IFEX) - On 12 April 2010, police arrested the director of "Express", a daily newspaper. The journalist is known by the initials A.V.; his full name has not been released. Moreover, the paper's journalists claim that the police tried to intimidate them.

At 8:00 a.m. on 12 April, the policemen arrived at the home of the paper's director in Lviv, and arrested him on suspicion of tax evasion (art. 212, part 3). A.V. explained to the police that he could not leave his kids alone at home (one of them is a 7-month-old baby, another is 6 years old). According to an e-mail from "Express" addressed to IMI, the police officers forced the director out of his apartment.

The daily's editor-in-chief, Ihor Pochynok, and another journalist, Bogdan Kufryk, took a camera and went to the police to ask for an explanation for the director's arrest. At the police station on Stryyska Street, the policemen used force against them and broke their camera.

"A group of journalists and I drove to the police station where they had taken our chief. We presented our press cards and asked what the grounds were for legal proceedings against him. And then they spoke roughly to us, pushed us out, they almost beat us, and broke our camera," Pochynok said.

"After this incident, we don't have any doubt. The police officers had a clear task: to intimidate the journalists working for 'Express'. The video confirmed it. The policemen acted on orders, provoked by some 'Express' publications, and they didn't even try to cover this up," the paper's letter to IMI explained.

According to Melnyk, senior investigator of the regional tax police, the director of "Express" has been accused of tax evasion.

"As captured in a video recording, Melnyk made it clear what the reasons were for this incident. According to him, the journalists were corrupt and were writing pre-paid stories. At present, the police are probing facts regarding the director of the daily, but they could also arrest Pochynok, who is a witness to this case now," Oleksiy Malarchuk, lawyer of "Express" daily, told IMI.

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