World Association of News Publishers

Protest Campaign - Ukraine, 17 November 2011

Protest Campaign - Ukraine, 17 November 2011

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His Excellency Viktor Yanukovych
President of Ukraine
Kiev, Ukraine


17 November 2011 


Your Excellency,

We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries, to express a number of concerns regarding freedom of the press in the Ukraine.

Firstly, WAN-IFRA expresses our grave concern at the attempted murder of journalist Oleksander Vlaschenko.

According to reports, Mr Vlaschenko, an investigative reporter for Nashe Misto weekly in the southern town of Mykolayiv, was shot in the head by unidentified attackers late at night on 15 October. He is now recovering and in outpatient treatment, though the bullet remains lodged in his head.

According to reports, three suspects have been arrested. Police have indicated they believe the motive was robbery, but we are seriously concerned that Mr Vlaschenko, who covered corruption and organized crime and was often critical of the local authorities, was shot because of his reporting. He had recently investigated possible embezzlement of the proceeds from land sales and had received death threats on the newspaper’s website and in anonymous emails.

Although the assailants took two mobile phones and camera, they reportedly left 300 hryvnia in his pockets.

We are concerned that those who attack and intimidate journalists too often enjoy impunity from prosecution. We respectfully remind you that the people behind the murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze ten years ago remain unidentified and the investigation into his death continues to face obstructions and delay. As long as violence against journalists goes unpunished, the press will continue to operate in a climate of fear.

Secondly, we wish to express our concern over a draft bill which aims to “prevent the production and distribution of products that harm the public morality”. This bill, if adopted, could immediately restrict access to electronic information resources that were declared by a “National Expert Commission on Public Morality” to be pornography, eroticism, hate speech, violence or using explicit language.

While the aim of the draft bill addresses legitimate concerns, it is so vague that critical content could fall into this category and be restricted. This could also potentially lead to the closure of social media such as YouTube and Facebook, as well as lead to self-censorship of the press.

We respectfully remind you that a government-appointed “National Expert Commission on Public Morality", with the powers to close Internet news sites or social networks without a court order, violates international standards of freedom of the press and freedom of expression. We call on you to ensure that the government does not adopt this law, which has no European equivalent, and ensure that the Ukraine press flourishes in a climate which is free and independent of governmental, political or economic control.

We also remind you that our organizations will be holding the 64th World Newspaper Congress in Kiev in September 2012 and we would like to take this opportunity to begin a regular engagement programme with you and your government about the state of press freedom in Ukraine. We would like to suggest that the committee you have set up to liaise with WAN-IFRA for the Congress would be an excellent platform from which to engage in discussions regarding the press freedom situation in Ukraine.

WAN-IFRA’s core mandate is to defend and promote a free and independent press worldwide, and this committee could be a vehicle through which to initiate talks as to how your government is guaranteeing the freedom of the press and thus fulfilling its commitment to freedom of expression.

As you know, we continue to have a number of concerns about the press freedom situation in your country that we would like to discuss before the events next September, one of which is the attack on Mr Vlaschenko. We ask that you do everything possible to ensure that the case is thoroughly investigated and those responsible for this attack are quickly brought to justice.

We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience. 

Yours sincerely,


Jacob Mathew

World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers 


Erik Bjerager
World Editors Forum


WAN-IFRA is the global organization for the world’s newspapers and news publishers, with formal representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe. The organization groups 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries.


William Granger's picture

William Granger


2011-11-17 16:52

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In countless countries, journalists, editors and publishers are physically attacked, imprisoned, censored, suspended or harassed for their work. WAN-IFRA is committed to defending freedom of expression by promoting a free and independent press around the world. Read more ...