A campaign has started against this year's winner of the Leipzig Media Award Volodymyr Mostovy (editor in chief of the Kiev weekly Zerkalo Nedelji) at Kiev. The reason is the awarding of the "Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media 2003" of the Media Foundation of the Sparkasse Leipzig. As we had learned from the German Embassy at Kiev President Kuchma ordered to investigate into persecution of Mostovy.
Kyiv, 12 May(Interfax-Ukraine) - Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has ordered Interior Minister Yuriy Smyrnov, Security Service Chief Volodymyr Radchenko and Public Prosecutor General Sviatoslav Piskun to take all measures required for investigation into the facts of threats against Volodymyr Mostovy, editor in chief of Zerkalo Nedeli weekly. Ukrainian media reports about Mostovy as the winner of program "For the freedom and future of the mass media" emphasized that the journalist had to "work in conditions of threats and permanent persecutions." The President has been disturbed by this information, presidential press secretary Olena Hromnytska said on Monday. "The fresh facts of threats and persecutions against the Kyiv journalist demonstrate that the freedom of speech remains an object of pressure on the part of criminal circles and political adventurers," the press secretary said.
Investigations of this kind had already been ordered by Kuchma regarding the murders of the journalists Derevjanko and Gongadze and had no obvious result (see www.reporter-ohne-grenzen.de). Mostovy is accused of having not informed the instruments of the state about the persecution and threats against him (what would have been like the attempt to report the bugging of telephones by the State Security Service to the police of the former GDR). In the meantime, Mostovy had been interrogated. The boulevard paper Kievskie Wedomostie - a paper which is apparently close to the government - asks him to publicly give the prize back if he is not able to prove his reproach. Presumably, the result of the investigation has already been fixed and the attempt will be made to bring Mostovy as well as all other independent journalists into discredit by declaring that there is nothing to all accusations - true to the learned practices of the Soviet Secret Service.
We sent the following press release to the Ukrainian media on 15 May, 2003. The German Ambassador at Kiev will ask the speaker of the Bundestag Thierse who is staying at Kiev at the moment to approach on this subject when meeting Kuchma.
In memory of the peaceful revolution in autumn 1989 at Leipzig, the Media Foundation of the Sparkasse Leipzig (www.leipziger-medienstiftung.de) awards its "Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media" to courageous, independent journalists. At the latest since those days which rang in the reunification of Germany we know about the value of an independent press.
Volodymyr Mostovy is an independent, courageous man and excellent journalist. This year he got the "Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media" for his life's work together with other journalists. Kiev and the Ukraine can be proud of him. He is a shining example for an independent journalism! The reasons for our decision to award the prize to him are based on intensive investigations we had made before the decision and without letting Mostovy know. These investigations are made regarding all of our prize winners. We informed Mostovy about his honouring after having made the decision on the basis of our inquiries. It is a malicious, slanderous allegation that he had obtained the prize by devious means with making false claims.
"It is one of the basic rules of journalism to make thorough investigations into a story and even to ask those who had awarded the prize. Nobody had talked to us, the Kiewskie Wedomosti neither. By the way, the prize money is no secret. The amount of the prize money is quite normal and known. It is mentioned on our website."
The present reactions of certain circles at Kiev demonstrate that Mostovy is really worth the prize and that we made the right decision. As one of our international prize winners he takes his place among the great journalists of our times.
From our own history we know that forces supporting the government of the former GDR had severely manipulated the press. Just because of this experience the Foundation is not willing to make statements agreeable to any administration or policy. We are guided by the values of freedom and truth and will thoroughly observe Mostovy's situation. If he suffers from the prize awarding or is brought into discredit, we will immediately bring this to the public attention and will ask the winners of the last years to support our reporting.