Ukraine’s Imperiled Press Freedom
NEW YORK – On July 20, 2016, Pavel Sheremet, a prominent Belarusian-born journalist, was heading to work at the studios of Radio Vesti in Kyiv when the Subaru he was driving blew up at a busy intersection. Nearby windows shook, and birds scattered into the air. Sheremet, 44, died almost instantly, and the Ukraine Prosecutor’s Office quickly confirmed that a bomb had caused the explosion. But one year later, Sheremet’s murder remains unsolved.
Had this been a random car bombing, my organization, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), would not have spent the last year investigating it or pushing the Ukrainian government for a full inquiry. But Sheremet was a tireless advocate for transparency and democracy, working as a journalist first in his native Belarus, then in Russia, and most recently, in Ukraine. Until his murder is solved, the truth that he sought in life will elude his countrymen in his death.
Murder is the ultimate form of media censorship. When journalists are slain, self-censorship seeps into the work of others. And when a country – especially a country like Ukraine, which aspires to European Union membership – fails to bring the killers to justice, its stated commitment to democracy and the rule of law rings hollow.