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Journalists Say Media Freedom on Wrong Track


Ukraine - Lviv, journalists of Ekspress paper tied a chain to a Moscow-bound train, 3May 2010

Ukraine - Lviv, journalists of Ekspress paper tied a chain to a Moscow-bound train, 3May 2010

Six journalists from the "Ekspress" newspaper chained themselves to a Budapest-to-Moscow train last week in the western
Ukrainian city of Lviv to protest restrictions on the independent media, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

The protest was carried out under the motto "Where are we going?" More than 50
journalists took part in the action.

The journalists told RFE/RL they intentionally chained themselves to the train
that goes from Europe -- where press freedom exists -- to Russia, where they
said it is limited. They added that Ukraine is at a crossroads between Russia
and the West.

"Ekspress" editor in chief Ihor Pochynok said that since Viktor Yanukovych
became president earlier this year the situation regarding independent media
outlets has significantly worsened.

He said freedom of speech exists only "on paper" and that journalists in
Yanukovych's Ukraine do not feel safe.

The protesters demanded the Prosecutor-General's Office open a case under
article 171 of Ukraine's Criminal Code on "obstruction of journalistic
activity."

In March, a case was filed against the Ekspress publishing group which alleged
it had failed to pay 2.6 million hryvnia (about $328,000) in taxes. The
publisher said the additional demand is illegal and the charges were
"fabricated."

In April, several "Ekspress" journalists were beaten by police.

Today's protest was the third action in recent months. "Ekspress" journalists
said they are prepared to take more determined steps if authorities do not
react to their demands.

Compiled by RFE/RL's O wire.

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