Komarov’s colleagues believe that the attack was connected to his work. Komarov frequently wrote about corruption, embezzlement of city budget funds, administrative incompetence, illegal construction and prison conditions.
Ukrainian investigative journalist Vadim Komarov was beaten into a coma in Cherkasy city in the early hours of 4 May. Police have not yet identified the attacker, but are treating the incident as premeditated attempted murder.
Regional IFEX member, the Institute of Mass Information (IMI), reports that Komarov was found lying unconscious in the street by passersby some hours after the attack, and that he had to undergo emergency surgery for severe head and brain injuries. Doctors believe that Komarov was attacked with a hammer and have described his condition as “critical”. They have declined to offer a prognosis.
Komarov’s colleagues believe that the attack was connected to his work. Komarov frequently wrote about corruption, embezzlement of city budget funds, administrative incompetence, illegal construction and prison conditions. According to Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, the head of the Ukrainian Union of Journalists said that Komarov “really annoyed many in Cherkasy, those who have great power and big money”.
This is not the first time that Komarov has been targeted. In 2016, an unknown individual fired a gun at the journalist. In 2017, Komarov was beaten up by an employee of a construction company that he was investigating (the company was directed by a local politician).
IFEX members were quick to condemn the latest attack.
Johann Bihr, head of Reporters Without Borders’ Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, urged police to “do everything possible to ensure that this horrific attack does not go unpunished…[which]…is the only way to dispel this murder attempt’s chilling effect”.
The European Federation of Journalists and the International Federation of Journalists called on the Ukrainian authorities to “ensure a safe working environment for journalists and bring those responsible to justice”.
Gulnoza Said, Central Asia program coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists, said: “We are appalled by the brutal assault on Vadim Komarov, which comes amid a range of threats faced by investigative reporters in Ukraine…Ukrainian authorities should leave no stone unturned in identifying the motive and bringing the assailants to justice”.
The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir, commended the authorities for swiftly launching an investigation into the attack on Komarov and called on the investigators to do their utmost to ensure that the “targeted attack” did not go unpunished.
Appalled by attempted murder of journalist Vadim Komarov in #Ukraine. I strongly condemn this violent attack that has left him in a coma and call on the authorities to fully investigate, bringing all involved to justice. My full statement: https://t.co/Iuz615HJBv
— OSCE media freedom (@OSCE_RFoM) May 6, 2019
According to research by IMI, last year saw 31 physical attacks on journalists in Ukraine, 33 incidents of threat or intimidation aimed at journalists and 96 cases of “obstruction of lawful journalistic activities”.
Exposing corruption in Ukraine can be very dangerous. In November 2018, the anti-corruption activist Kateryna Handziuk died of injuries that she had sustained in a horrific sulphuric acid attack the previous June. In 2016, Belarusian political journalist Pavel Sheremet was killed by a car bomb in Kyiv. His killers continue to enjoy impunity.