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Persecution of journalists in Ukraine in connection with their professional activity

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Reporters Without Borders
National Unions of Journalists in the USA, Europe, UK
European Federation of Journalists
National Union of Journalists of Ukraine
European Parliament
OPEN MediaHub
Mass Media Institute
Detector Media
Pylyp Orlyk Institute of Democracy
Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law
Internews Ukraine
Mohyla School of Journalism
Embassies of the USA, European Union countries and a number of other countries in Ukraine
Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine
Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine
Interested parties

Dear Sirs and Madams,

I provide you with a material on persecution of journalists in Ukraine in connection with their professional activity.

Yours sincerely, Igor Gorbasenko – investigative journalist, Ukraine.

Once again on persecution of journalists in Ukraine in connection with their professional activity. Another attempt to hush up the subject of the effectiveness of use of donor funds in public health.

In the freedom of speech ranking by Reporters Without Borders, Ukraine ranked 96th out of 180 countries.

Unfortunately, objective coverage by journalists of the medical subject area in Ukraine is met with resistance that is increasingly taking the form of overt harassment, not only from existing branches of government, but also from the narrow circle of non-governmental organisations that have traditionally received plentiful financing from foreign donors.

Two years ago:

On 10 November 2018, member of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine Igor Gorbasenko published a journalist investigation entitled "Medical Center for Health and Rehabilitation "100% LIFE". Lies and reality".

The investigation materials concerned prevention of charitable funds provided by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and other donors from being used to get private profit.

They were about the activity of "Medical Center for Health and Rehabilitation "100% Life" Limited Liability Company (hereinafter – the Center) created in 2016 and its single founder and member, "The All-Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS" Charitable Organisation (hereinafter – the Network).

The main, but not all, aspects of the Center's activity that were covered in the journalist investigation :

1.Categorical insistence by the Network's senior officials (Dmytro Sherembey, Vitaly Tkachuk) that the Medical Center is a non-profit-making organisation publicly expressed in mass media.

Although the Network's and the Center's officials perfectly knew, even when the Center's Articles of Association were being developed, that the Medical Center, in accordance with its Articles of Association, acts exactly "to do entrepreneurial activity and get profit".

2.Insistence by the Network's senior officials publicly expressed in mass media that "profit will be invested in medical services, rather than go into private pockets".

Although the Center's Articles of Association specify the "pockets" into which dividends will go: members of the company, that are private individuals, including foreign nationals, have the right to take part in distribution of the company's profit and get its part (dividend).

That is, money from taxpayers of developed countries that provide funds for the Global Fund was used to build up an organisation intended to bring profit into private pockets.

3.And although the Medical Center is registered as a public health establishment, the founders included in its Articles of Association the following:

activity of insurance agents and brokers; collection, processing and/or disposal of production waste and secondary resources; pecuniary and financial mediation; wholesale trade for fee or based on contract; providing the services of saunas, facial rooms and massage rooms; doing foreign economic and other activities.

The Center's authorised capital provided by the Network which determines, in accordance with Ukraine's legislation, the minimum amount of a company's property that guarantees the interests of its creditors is 2,000 UAH (less than 80 USD). With foreign economic activity included in its Articles of Association.

4.The Center's reserve fund set up in accordance with Ukraine's legislation to reduce the risks associated with doing of business by the Center should be in the amount equivalent to approximately 20 USD. But it hasn't been created in 2 years.

The Network's failed and risky business experiments with money provided by the Global Fund were reported back in 2012 by the Office of the Inspector General of the Global Fund based on the results of audit GF-OIG-016 on 3 August 2012.

And then, there again appears business of the Medical Center with the reserve fund of 20 USD to reduce risks.

It can't be ruled out that the senior officials of the Global Fund are quite comfortable with this Ukrainian business, but there's one question: are taxpayers of Global Fund donor countries, in particular, the United States, comfortable with it as well?

5.Poltava Clinic (the Medical Center in the city of Poltava – author's note) opened in the autumn of 2016 became profitable six months after its opening. Its most sought-after services were those of the addiction medicine unit, according to head of the Network's social entrepreneurship division Yaroslav Blyakharsky.

6.If the payback period of half a year starting from 2016 is regarded – by international standards – as superprofit, what should one make of the baffling amount of the Medical Center's authorised capital equivalent to about 80 USD in 2018 and the absence of the reserve fund at the Medical Center equivalent to about 20 USD for a long time? 

At present:

2 years after the journalist investigation was published, on 8 November 2020, the two organisations – the Network and the Centre – filed a statement of claim signed by their heads, D. Sherembey and O. Danylenko, with a court accusing the investigative journalist of those very points that they themselves had clearly stated in the Medical Center's Articles of Association, namely – about the programmed possibility of bringing profit, including into private pockets; about the risky nature of the business; about making public the detailed report on the results of the financial activity of the Center in Poltava. 

There're many issues answers to which weren't obtained during the journalist investigation, for objective or subjective reasons. And participation in court proceedings gives an opportunity to obtain in accordance with the judicial procedure materials for further journalist investigation.

There's an evident attempt to silence and compromise the journalist who carefully and objectively analyses the activity of a number of non-governmental organisations in Ukraine.

Of note, in the context of a statement of counterclaim against the claimants, are phrases used by Dmytro Sherembey and O. Danylenko in their statement of claim against the investigative journalist: "spreading of false information is not incidental and is intended to manipulate public opinion...", "by which the author meant participants...", "exercise of pressure on the organisation...", "the defendant intentionally spread false information about the claimants", and so on.

Generally, the presence of a legal claim accusing a journalist should be treated as an attempt to persecute Ukrainian critical journalism – investigations.

And this is the cornerstone and a clear test of the Ukrainian judicial system for objectiveness.

Full text of the journalist investigation is available at: http://interhealth.org.ua/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=428:1-1100-r-&catid=34:2008-10-16-06-57-24&Itemid=18

Р.S. All the factual data provided are taken from the original materials of the investigation.

 

Igor Gorbasenko, investigative journalist, Ukraine

Офіційний сайт Солом'янської районної в місті Києві адміністрації

Контактна інформація: sitchen@ukr.netsitchen194@gmail.com