Remembering is not enough

Tatiana Urbanskaya
21:06, 20 July 2016
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Opinion

Perhaps the most high-profile killing of a journalist in Ukraine in the history of its independence was the murder of Georgy Gongadze. But every year, when his memory is honored, other media workers are also remembered, who gave their lives, including, for seeking to report the truth. There are dozens of them, and their number is growing each year, unfortunately. Two years ago, Ukraine was the world’s second country in terms of a number of reporters killed, mainly because of the military aggression of Putin's Russia. Unfortunately, it’s only their relatives and colleagues who still remember them. Moreover, along  with such memories, one can ‘t recall a single case of high-profile trials and, as a result, prison terms for politicians, businessmen, or security officials involved in these deaths.

The Committee to Protect Journalists notes that one of the main enemies of press freedom is the lack of justice in the cases of murders of journalists

Why are we talking about these certain categories? The fact is that, according to the International Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), more than 90% of media professionals across the world were murdered because of their investigations against politicians, corruption, and military conflicts in their respective countries. At the same time, in four out of 10 cases of reported murders, the victims received death threats before they were slain. Also, the Committee has repeatedly pointed out that in a quarter of all cases, the main suspects were those in power. However, the masterminds of these murders were arrested and brought to justice in less than 5% of cases.

The realities of the Ukrainian life play in the hand of such stats. Not so long ago, the law enforcers were shooting at people, including journalists, at the Maidan, and that was almost on live TV. But how many security officials, who give orders to shoot, have been put behind bars? Actually, not a single name comes to mind.

The Committee to Protect Journalists notes that one of the main enemies of press freedom is the lack of justice in the cases of murders of journalists. According to the organization, an atmosphere of impunity prevails. And if no one is punishing murderers, they are becoming increasingly brazen and violence continues. At the same time, a stable impunity system is based on several factors. The key of them is the lack of political will to investigate crimes against journalists and weak law enforcement system. And they are most often combined.

Two years ago, Ukraine was the world’s second country in terms of a number of reporters killed, mainly because of the military aggression of Putin's Russia

So, the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information Policy for the past two years has discussed assaults and threats against reporters numerous times. But, too often, criminal probes into these cases were hindered by an "imperfect legal framework." However, enhancing it has so far failed to result in any qualitative shifts in such investigations. So is it really about the lack of political will?

Today, following the murder of Pavlo Sheremet, there came a flow of loud statements from higher offices about the importance of immediate and thorough investigation of this crime. There came pledges to find both the culprits and masterminds, and orders to involve the best operatives and seek justice...

I really wish these are not empty words. And I really wish this doesn’t end up as yet another occasion to remember our killed colleagues on some certain date once a year.

Tatiana Urbanskaya

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