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Press Release

Statement on the Mr. Georgyi Gongadse case and Freedom of the Media in Ukraine

Delivered by Ambassador V.Ohrysko to the Permanent Council
January 25, 2001

Mr. Chairman,

As you remember our Delegation promised keep informed Permanent Council on extremely important issue for the Ukrainian society as well as international fora including the OSCE. I mean the case of the journalist Georgiy Gongadse who disappeared on September 16th last year.

Mr. Chairman,

A disappearance and moreover - a murder of any person, irrespective of his profession, is a tragedy for his relatives and close friends. It is a tragedy for the whole society when such a person is a journalist.

It is exactly how we in Ukraine reacted to the disappearance of Georgiy Gongadse. This sad event has received a wide public resonance in our country and abroad. It continues to be at the focus of attention of both executive and legislative branches of power, and practically of all political forces in Ukraine and even those citizens, who are far from politics.

The investigation of this case, which required the involvement of unprecedented law enforcement forces is carried out on the basis of full impartiality and transparency. It is open to the public through Mass Media and reports of the specially created Interim parliamentary commission. Moreover a number of parliamentary hearings on the case were held in September and December last year and the last one - on the 10th of January this year. During the mentioned hearings the heads of the law-enforcement bodies of Ukraine presented their reports on the progress in the investigation process. The discussion, which in general was rather tense, entailed a number of relevant critical remarks.

The thesises of the Prosecutor General's report to the Parliament have been distributed among the OSCE delegations yesterday and all of you can obtain information on the matter. These materials will also assist all those concerned to get a better understanding of the very complicated nature of the investigation process which envisages a grate number of criminal procedures and expertise helping to reveal a true picture of the case.

It is planned that the next report of the Prosecutor General will be submitted to the Parliament next month and we shall inform the Permanent Council on its main provisions.

Let me also inform you that last week President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma discussed above-mentioned case with Federal Chancellor of Germany Gerhard Schreder at their meeting in Berlin. The Ukraine's President, in particular, underlined that he would not be satisfied with the results of the investigation until the guilty are brought to the justice. Leonid Kuchma also promised to Mr. Schreder that he would take every endeavor to provide the freedom of the media in Ukraine.

In this respect, Mr. Chairman, I would like briefly to draw the Permanent Council's attention to the following. The situation around the G. Gongadse case in the whole and its perception by the Ukrainian society clearly demonstrates that despite some shortcomings a level of the freedom of a Media and freedom of expression in our country deserves to be evaluated as satisfactory. I mean, first and foremost, a broad spectrum of opinions and sometimes opposite versions stated in the connection with the G. Gongadse case, which are freely spoken or distributed through written and electronic channels.

At the same time the G.Gongadse case has triggered a wide range discussion on all aspects of Mass Media activities in Ukraine, which resulted in convening the special parliamentary hearings held on January 16th this year. In these hearings besides the parliamentarians, a number of representatives of Ukrainian media and foreign experts took an active part. A wide spectrum of ideas and concrete proposals regarding further improvement of the Mass Media activities in our country were expressed during this event. Most of them were related to the need to further strengthen and develop a national pluralistic and independent printing and electronic Mass Media. In this respect, special attention was attached to the economic aspects of the Media's functioning which includes issues like financial support, taxes, equipment, a compensation rate for moral damage etc. which are to be reconsidered and improved.

On the other hand, as a positive factor in the overall democratic processes in Ukraine, following data was presented at the hearings regarding electronic Mass Media (radio and television). Up till now as many as 792 TV and radiobroadcasting companies have been registered in our country. Among them there are 513 private and only 29 State run companies. As for newspapers - only 9 % of them are the State owned.

Results of the parliamentary hearings will be taken into due account during the elaboration and improvement of the relevant legislation. But it is obvious that this process will take time and a number of additional measures .

In this context in February this year the annual report of the President of Ukraine - "Urgent issues on further support of freedom of Mass Media in Ukraine" will be submitted to the Parliament of Ukraine.

Concluding my intervention, Mr. Chairman, let me stress that Ukraine remains open to the international community in the process of intensifying a mutually beneficial dialogue on all aspects of Mass Media freedoms in Ukraine and throughout the OSCE region in general.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

For more information, please contact:
Taras Malyshevskyi, Press Secretary of the Embassy of Ukraine
310 Somerset Street West, Ottawa, ON K2P 0J9
Tel. (613) 230-2961, fax (613) 230-2400,