Thursday, December 07, 2006

Freedom of the Press?

Ukrainian Editor Says Bentley Destroyed Over Photos of Yushchenko’s Son
Created: 04.10.2005 16:14 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 16:14 MSK

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko ordered a high-level investigation on Oct. 2 into the attack on a car owned by the editor of a celebrity tabloid that was allegedly planning a photo expose on the president’s teenage son, Associated Press reported.

Yushchenko asked Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko to personally take control of the investigation, saying it must be conducted as thoroughly and quickly as possible “to make impossible any kind of speculation around it.”

Walid Harfouch, managing editor of the magazine Paparazzi, said that his Bentley was damaged by a homemade fire bomb early on Sept. 30, according to the media rights group Reporters Without Borders. The group cited Harfouch, a Lebanese citizen, as saying he believed the attack was linked to the planned publication of Turkey vacation photographs of Yushchenko’s son, Andriy, and his girlfriend.

No one could be reached for comment at the Kiev police department or the tabloid this weekend.

The magazine’s forthcoming issue had been discussed in a story on tabloid journalism in Kiev’s English language weekly newspaper last month. Reporters without Borders said that afterward Paparazzi’s staff immediately began coming under pressure to scrap the article.

“For the president, the principle of free speech in immutable,” said the president’s spokeswoman Irina Gerashchenko. “He and his family would never allow anyone to try to pressure journalists about any kind of material.” She said they had only learned about the planned article after the attack on the editor’s car.

She urged the magazine’s editor to make a formal complaint to police about the alleged pressure, adding that it would also help remove any suspicions that the magazine was trying “to lift its ratings at the expense of a scandal around a well-known family.”

“We very much hope that soon this next issue will appear exactly in such a scope and format as was originally envisioned,” Gerashchenko said.

Yushchenko’s teenage son sparked a scandal earlier this summer when a Ukrainian Internet site reported on his allegedly lavish lifestyle, sparking an angry outburst from Yushchenko. The president later apologized.


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