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Media Groups Protest Freeze Of Ukrainian TV Funds

Prague, 20 October 2004 (RFE/RL) -- International media watchdogs today called on a Ukrainian court to reverse a ruling that froze the accounts of Ukraine's only independent TV station, Channel 5, less than two weeks before the presidential elections.

The bank accounts of Channel 5 were frozen on 18 October after independent legislator Volodymyr Sivkovych sued one of the station's owners -- opposition lawmaker Petro Poroshenko.

Soria Blatmann, who heads the Europe desk of the Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, told RFE/RL: "[The case] is completely political. It is not acceptable. The media, journalists -- information is the only victim in this case, especially opposition information. It is so amazing and strange that two weeks before the elections this only [opposition] channel is going to close. It's an anomaly. This does not have to happen in a democracy. We are going to ask the Ukrainian authorities to come back on this decision."

Aidan White, secretary-general of the International Federation of Journalists, told RFE/RL that if Channel 5 is closed down, it would "absolutely render it impossible to have independent opinions heard prior to the elections."

Ukraine is due to hold presidential elections on 31 October.

(RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service)