After a long campaign of threats and other harassment, the Ukrainian government appears to have interfered in the judicial process to secure a court ruling that jeopardises Express‘s future. A court ruled against the newspaper in a case concerning the ownership of the company, ignoring a superior court judgment and legal precedent. Within hours of the judgment, officials offered to have the ruling overturned if Express would stop criticising the government in the run-up to elections later this year.
The court decision is the latest in a long line of intimidatory acts against Express. In the past two years, Express journalists and managers have been attacked, arrested and had their equipment smashed. There has also been a suspected arson attack on Editor-in-Chief Igor Pochynok’s home, tampering with his car’s tyres, a smear campaign against him, and repeated threats of criminal prosecution. The windows of Express’s office have also been shot out.
The court ruling led the Lviv-based Express – one of the country’s highest circulation papers and the leading newspaper in Western Ukraine – to publish a blanked out front page and launch a campaign calling on the public to protest the decision to President Viktor Yanukovych and senior court officials. The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, which represents 18,000 publications and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries, has sent a letter protesting the intimidation to the President. They have called on the government “to guarantee that court decisions are totally free from government influence in Ukraine.”
Read a report in the Kyiv Post.