Location Ukraine Ukraine

Editor flees Ukraine after receiving death threats

Scandalous news comes from Ukraine as usual. On January 31 Igor Guzhva, editor-in-chief of the Kiev-based news website Strana  fled to Austria after receiving death threats, and amid unprecedented pressure from the Ukrainian authorities, according to a statement from the editor. Strana was founded two years ago and quickly became prominent opposition media in Ukraine.

In the statement, Guzhva said that he decided to flee after Ukrainian law enforcement agencies ignored several requests to investigate the threats against him. He said other Strana journalists had also received threats. Guzhva and his stuff accuse president Poroshenko for unprecedented pressure at Strana. Calling on Poroshenko they stress: “According to your order, 5 criminal cases have already been fabricated against the editor-in-chief of the Strana, and he himself was imprisoned for several days. Our editorial office and the apartments of our journalists were affected with illegal searches. From the groups and individuals under your control, we are constantly receiving threats of physical violence, and our appeals for protection to law enforcement agencies remain unanswered.”

In June, the country’s National Security Service (SBU) searched Strana’s Kiev office and briefly arrested Guzhva for allegedly demanding a US$10,000 bribe in exchange for not publishing reportedly compromising materials on a politician. Speaking to CPJ after being released on bail, Guzhva denied all charges and called the case a «witch hunt» against him. He said of the Ukrainian authorities at the time, «They want to close [Strana] and put me in jail.»

Guzhva said in his statement that he was able to leave Ukraine after a court order preventing him from leaving the country expired on January 6. Ukrainian opposition journalists appeal to Austria to provide I.Guzhva political asylum.

His escape immediately caused a rage from Ukrainian Nazis. A neo-Nazi deputy from the Radical Party I.Mosiychuk called to prevent the escape of independent journalists and kill them while they are in the country — like Ukrainian opposition journalist O.Buzina who was murdered in 2015.

A spokesperson for the interior ministry and national police, Artem Shevchenko, told Committee to Protect Journalists that he was unaware of any requests Guzhva said he sent to the agencies. Shevchenko also accused Guzhva of being a Russian «information agent of influence.» The presidential administration did not respond immediately to CPJ’s request for comment.

The next day the prosecutor general of Ukraine Lutsenko refuted alleged accusations of Strana for Russian propaganda. «There is a tough criticism of the authorities, which is normal for a democratic society … But we have not the slightest claims to the content,» Lutsenko said. He specified that the examinations were carried out for threats to the territorial integrity and the constitutional order of Ukraine. Guzhva immediately stressed on Facrbook, Lutsenko proves Strana and he personally are prosecuted not for pro-Russian position but for other reasons connected to the criticism of the Ukrainian authorities, i.e. just what Guzhva told in Austria a day before.

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