Monday, 28 March 2011


After ten years of a formidable campaign by the IFJ and its unions, it looks as there may be light at the end of the tunnel in the case of murdered journalist Georgy Gongadze, publisher of the Internet journal Ukrainska Pravda. He was kidnapped on 16 September 2000, and his body found later beheaded. The journalist had been investigating corruption at senior levels of the Ukrainian government led by President Leonid Kuchma. Now the ex-President, which campaigners always alleged was behind the killing, is finally charged by the prosecutor general.

It was the NUJ UK which first raised the issue within the IFJ and worked doggedly to convince journalists unions to back the campaign. Every year on 16th September, the anniversary of Georgy’s death, the NUJ would lead a delegation to the Ukrainian embassy in London to protest the killing and send messages to the Ukrainian government to pursue their investigation into those who ordered the killing, and to ensure they are brought to justice.

Despite support from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the enquiry dragged on, riddled with errors, and came to epitomise impunity as authorities obstructed it in their bid to conceal the real identity of the masterminds behind the murder.

Over the years, the IFJ supported several reports produced to put pressure on the investigators to pursue the case more vigorously, including examination of the so-called "Melnichenko tapes", on which former president Kuchma was heard talking to senior politicians about harming Georgy. I travelled to Kiev in September 2007 to launch the third report on the investigation, entitled “Official Obstruction is Rewarded”, which provided detailed evidence that, despite prima facie evidence, the Ukrainian government continued to frustrate and sabotage investigations of the murder.

Two years ago, the investigation took a major step forward by establishing that Georgy was killed by a group of serving interior ministry officers, and pointed to a former chief of the interior ministry's surveillance department Olexiy Pukach who admitted to killing the journalist. However those who ordered the murder remains unidentified despite promises made by political leaders following the Orange Revolution.

Last week's charging of Kuchma is another giant step vindicating the doggedness of IFJ unions and may bring to a close the ten-year fight to get justice for Georgy.

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