Radio Free Europe reports that the International Press Institute (IPI) has expressed concern about the safety of Ukrainian journalist Vasyl Klymentyev, who has been missing since August 11.

Vasyl Klymentyev was last seen last week, when he met a colleague to discuss an article he was writing about a local prosecutor and a tax official. The authorities say Klymentyev was last seen later that day getting into a BMW with an unknown man. A manhunt is under way and officials are investigating on charges of "possible premeditated murder."

Klymentyev's case is raising new questions about the state of press freedom in Ukraine after pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych came to power earlier this year in an election that repudiated the Orange Revolution and its pro-Western leaders. Only a week ago,  the Vienna-based International Press Institute issued an open letter to Yanukovych urging him to respect press freedom, citing "a climate of impunity" surrounding the increasing numbers of attacks on journalists. In reply, the President said he would do everything in his power to ensure free and open reporting. The European Union and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have also criticized the government over the media environment in Ukraine.

Recent events, including the government's decision to withdraw the licenses of Channel 5 and TVi - the two leading independent TV news channels - are creating a climate reminiscent of Soviet days. TVi director Mykola Knyazhytskyy, in a letter to the President, said that several groups of influence around the president are using illegal methods and non-European practices, and are engaged in conflicts of interests. Knyazhytskyy said, "They're pressuring the courts, and using the special services to fight against journalists. Those groups are trying to monopolise power and change Ukraine into an authoritarian state."

President Yanukovych has strongly denied any interference with freedom of the press, but the international press community is not convinced and will undoubtedly continue to monitor the situation.




Ukrayinska Dumka


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