Ukraine: Assault on Activists a Sign of Worsening Environment

Washington

In response to a series of attacks on anti-corruption and civic activists in Rivne, Ukraine, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“The series of arson attacks against civic activists and the theft of computer equipment essential to their work demands an immediate response and investigation by the Ukrainian authorities,” said Matthew Schaaf, director of Freedom House’s office in Ukraine. “These assaults on activists involved in investigating and reporting on corruption appear aimed at silencing active citizens who make a vital contribution to the battle against corruption and for reforms in Ukraine. Attacks like these, on top of efforts to bring independent civic groups under additional government control, and officials’ unsubstantiated claims of malfeasance by activists, contribute to an increasingly hostile environment in Ukraine for investigative journalists, NGOs, and civic activists.”

Background:

On February 22, the office of the media outlet “4Vlada”, which investigates and repots on corruption in Rivne, was targeted in an arson attack. On February 19, an arson attempt took place at the home of relatives of one of the prominent local investigative journalist and head of “Anticorruption Monitoring”, a local NGO. A few days prior to that arson attempt, computer equipment used by 4Vlada and several local NGOs was stolen from an IT company office. A similar theft of computer equipment owned by environmental activists also occurred on February 22. The civic media outlets and many of the activists are involved in investigating illegal amber mining, illegal land deals, and corrupt acts connected to environmental destruction in Rivne. The activists believe the arson attacks and thefts are connected with their civic work.

Ukraine is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2018, Partly Free in Freedom of the Press 2017, Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2017, and receives a democracy score of 4.61, on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 as the worst possible score, in Nations in Transit 2017.

Preview photo credit: 4Vlada.

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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