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Crackdown On Ukraine’s Journalists: Where Personal And Political Merge

December 30, 2013
Protests Against Assault on Journalist in Kiev (Pic New York Times)    

At first it appears the latest affront to media freedom – the brutal assault in Kiev on journalist Tatyana Chornovol in the early hours on Christmas Day – is the consequence of her critical account of Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko’s financial dealings. But that Zakharchenko controls the police that have repeatedly clashed with anti-government protestors in Ukraine, shows how the personal merges with the political in a country bereft of the rule of law.

 “Chornovol was driving home in the early hours on Wednesday, when a sports utility vehicle ambushed and rammed into her car, according to recording taken with a video camera on the dashboard of the journalist’s car, which was later published on the website of the independent Internet newspaper ‘Ukrainska Pravda‘ for which Chornovol writes,” said the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
CPJ went on to say that in a video taken at her hospital bed Chornovol – who is being treated for concussion and serious multiple facial injuries had said, “‘I jumped out, tried to run. I was caught and they began beating me on the head. They didn’t say anything. They just hit.'”
Euronews quoted Choronovol in greater detail. “‘Before being beaten, I had filmed the Interior Minister’s residence and the residence of the Ukrainian Prosecutor General and I think that this car started to chase me after I left the prosecutor’s place,'” she had said.
But soon the personal dissolves into the political. “Zakharchenko has been heavily criticized recently for police brutality in the dispersal of anti-government protests that have swept Ukraine over the past month. Zakharchenko is the most senior official with direct authority over police involved, according to international press reports,” reports CPJ.
RSFpoints out how Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s government has turned assaulting journalists covering public protests in Kiev to targeting media organisations and now individual journalists. “There has been a sharp increase in violations of freedom of information since the start of the Euromaidan movement. At least 50 journalists have been physically attacked during demonstrations since the start of December and three opposition media were stormed on 9 December,” it said.
RSF, CPJ and other international media watchdogs have demanded an investigation into the assault.
Meanwhile, Euronews said “Angry protesters are demanding the resignation of Ukraine’s Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko after an opposition journalist was badly beaten by unknown attackers. They marched to the ministry in Kyiv, where they also denounced President Victor Yanukovych and insisted that the attack on Tetyana Chornovol is far from an isolated case.”
RSF reported police was investigating the case and arrested three suspects under the Criminal Code for “hooliganism.”
Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.