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Concerns Mount About Press Freedom In Ukraine As Journalist Attacked

Donetsk journalist Artyom Furmanyuk says he was beaten by the police.
Donetsk journalist Artyom Furmanyuk says he was beaten by the police.
By Olha Dorovskykh
DONETSK, Ukraine -- A journalist says he was severely beaten up by police in the city of Donetsk, fueling concerns about press freedom in Ukraine under President Viktor Yanukovych.

Journalist Artyom Furmanyuk says the incident took place on the night of September 17 outside his home following a dispute with a group of strangers. Police deny the allegation, saying Furmanyuk's injuries resulted from a street brawl.

According to Furmanyuk, who runs a news website devoted to exposing crime and corruption in the Donetsk region, police arrived at the scene after one of the strangers telephoned friends working in the police force.

He says the police immediately handcuffed him, his brother Anton Furmanyuk, and their two friends, Yevgenny Demchenko and Roman Samoylov.

"They came up and immediately began handcuffing us, they said they were going to take us to the Kalininskyy district police station," Furmanyuk says. "They put handcuffs on Yevgenny and on my brother, but Roman and I resisted, we asked on what grounds this was happening."

Furmanyuk says the officers pinned him to the ground before kicking him and beating him with truncheons. "I was beaten by three men," he says. "I saw only two, but my brother says there were three. In the end I was screaming with agony, I could no longer bear it."

The journalist claims he was beaten a second time inside the police station.

He suffered broken ribs, a severe eye injury, cuts, and numerous bruises.

His friend Samoylov says police sprayed tear gas into his eyes.

"It all happened very quickly, without any warning. They didn't introduce themselves and didn't show any documents," Samoylov says.

"They immediately put handcuffs on Anton, and Artyom and I protested. I was immediately sprayed with gas. After this I could only hear shouting and swearing, then they started beating us." Samoylov claims the officers also ripped a gold chain off his neck and stole the contents of his wallet.

Furmanyuk and his friends were released without charges.

Police Reject Allegations


The case has set Ukraine's Internet abuzz, with readers leaving angry comments accusing the police of abuse and corruption.

The Donetsk police have firmly denied any wrongdoing and held a news conference today to reject the accusations.

Donetsk police chief Viktor Dubovyk said Furmanyuk sustained his injuries during a street brawl with the group of strangers prior to the police's arrival, and that the officers "resorted to weapons to stop the fight and because people were unlawfully refusing to obey the police officers."

The head of the local Union of Professional Journalists, Hennady Berezovskyy, was assaulted last week.
The head of the local police station, Vasyl Horyachev, also told the conference that Furmanyuk was drunk and denied he mentioned being a journalist, sparking a furious reaction from Furmanyuk and his supporters.

Fears For Journalistic Freedom

Although it remains unclear whether the incident was linked to Furmanyuk's journalistic activities, it has raised fresh concerns about media freedom in Ukraine.

Media watchdogs say attacks and pressure on journalists have increased since the February election of Yanukovych as president.

Furmanyuk's alleged beating by the police took place just hours after RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service published an article in which he accused the local authorities and police of widespread corruption.

It is the second attack on a Donetsk journalist in less than a week; the head of the local Union of Professional Journalists, Hennady Berezovskyy, was assaulted on September 12.

"Over the five years of Viktor Yushchenko's tenure, we've lowered our guard. We forgot that the state machine cannot be on the side of journalists and will not defend journalists," says publicist Stanislav Fedorchuk.

"For the authorities, journalists are enemies because they cover public issues and they do so in a professional manner. Journalists are clearly a threat to the regime."

The incident also comes amid mounting concern over the disappearance last month of Vasyl Klymentyev, the editor in chief of the newspaper "Novyy Styl," which focuses on corruption in the country's eastern Kharkiv region.

His deputy editor says Klymentyev, who is now presumed dead, had received threats after refusing to take money to halt the publication of an article accusing a prosecutor of bribe-taking.

The European Union has expressed "deep concern" over his disappearance and urged Yanukovych not to renege on his pledge to uphold media pluralism and protect journalists.
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Taras from: england
September 22, 2010 11:34
why is europe not voicing its distate for such state sanctioned actions. how many Ukrainian journalists must die before action is taken.Whilst freedoms are being oppressed by the state /Yanukovich/regione/then europe has no need of such bandits
In Response

by: Brian J Thimmesch from: US
September 22, 2010 15:23
What happened outside of the first street residence. Do they think the regional government can take action on something they cant control.
In Response

by: Peter from: Budapest
September 22, 2010 15:45
Europe has totally failed in its approach to Ukraine. It failed to fully recognise the changes brought about by the Orange revolution and was unwilling to go beyond token endorsement of the Yushchenko administration. The lack of vision and courage by the EU (in particular the Commission, but also big states such as Germany and France) contributed crucially to the failure of the Orange team as it could never count fully on Europe´s support. Yanukovich´s entourage quickly learned its lesson and saw that whatever they will do - bribe the opposition, harass the press etc. - Europe will not go beyond verbal condemnation, if at all. Shame on Europe - Ukraine deserves much better.
In Response

by: Ronald from: Europe
September 22, 2010 18:22
The West naively believed that by supporting "pro western" Orange Revolution politicians 6 years ago, that would get a modicum of good government in return. Instead, they got two criminal Ukrainian brats, Yuschchenko and Timoshenko, each determined to tear their Ukraine in half rather than stop fighting over the spoils. So -- still no honest courts, corruption as rampant as ever, and a public whose only protest route in the last election was to vote for Yanukovich. Thanks, Orange Revolution!
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
September 23, 2010 06:52
Dear Taras,
Europe is not voicing nothing because (a) it is stuck in its economic and financial crisis up to its neck, (b) it is too busy discussing whether it should be massively deporting its ethnic minorities - such as Roma - or should be doing it less massively and finally (c) it is also too busy getting defeated in Afghanistan.
So, to sum up, you can see very clearly that being that busy does not allow Europe to voice nothing on any other subject :-).
All the best, Eugenio

by: Guy from: Prague
September 22, 2010 13:45
This looks like a simple case of men fighting in the street that did not listen to the police, resisted the police, and got arrested. Furmanyuk even admits that, "They put handcuffs on Yevgenny and on my brother, but Roman and I resisted." When a person "resists" (fights with) the police anywhere in the world, said person risks getting injured.

The police are not paid to dance with a person they are arresting. A police officer risks getting injured by a resisting person, so it should come of no surprise that the police will react with force to get a resisting person to quickly comply. PERIOD! My advice to Mr. Furmanyuk is to watch this youtube video where Chris Rock gives solid advice on how to interact with the police: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XujaB4HkBgE
In Response

by: UKR FAN from: Canada
September 22, 2010 20:17
Why were handcuffs not put on the other opposing, disagreeing parties? It appears to me that it was a setup; so guess who gets the bum rap (and injuries)?
While in Ukraine a couple of years ago I entered into a conversation with a vitriolic women whose views did not coincide with mine. After a few words I listened as I did not want to end up like the poor journalist.

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