February 23, 2018

Arson attack on news website in northwestern Ukraine

Credit: Inna Biletska

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns last night’s arson attack on the headquarters of Chetverta Vlada, an investigative news website in the city of Rivne in northwestern Ukraine, and calls for a full and impartial investigation into this attempt to intimidate local journalists.

According to the police, an unidentified individual walked into the website’s offices in the basement of a building and used two bottles of gasoline to start a fire. The ensuing blaze completely destroyed one of its offices but fortunately none of the four persons present at the time was injured.

“We firmly condemn this attempt to intimidate the investigative press,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Desk. “We call on the Ukrainian authorities to conduct a full and impartial investigation into this crime so that both the perpetrators and instigators can be quickly brought to justice.”

The arson attack came just five days after the theft of the servers that hosted the Chetverta Vlada site, which is still down. RSF calls for the broadest possible public participation in Chetverta Vlada’s crowdfunding operation with the aim of financing the purchase of equipment to replace what was stolen or damaged in the fire.

Created in 2007, Chetverta Vlada specializes in exposing corruption. Its recent investigative reporting has included revelations about the illegal confiscation of land and buildings in Rivne’s old town. The site’s journalists say that, as a result of its reporting, the real estate companies involved lost a lot of money and had to be wound up.

Ukraine is ranked 102nd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index.