February 11, 2011 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Response by Vyacheslav Pikhovshek and Yanina Sokolovska

Vyacheslav Pikhovshek and Yanina Sokolovska wanted to exercise their right to respond to our 11 February press release. Their response follows:
“On February 11, your organization issued a statement that was later reproduced by some online newspapers in Ukraine and elsewhere. The statement contains some errors and factual inaccuracies. The European culture of debate allows for a right to reply, and to put forward one’s own arguments and facts. Reporters Without Borders shares these values. I, Vyacheslav Pikhovshek, have never been a PR consultant for either Victor Yanukovych or any other politician. I am a freelance writer for the website Livy Bereh, and I also contribute to the newspaper Izvestiya v Ukraine. The magazine Glavred, on the Glavred and UNIAN websites, as well as the local English-language newspaper Kyiv Post, have printed some of my op-eds. The statement that I am a PR consultant is factually wrong. I am asking you to retract it. In its statement, Reporters Without Borders also described me as a person close to the government. With all due respect to Reporters Without Borders, I, Vyacheslav Pikhovshek, would like to stress that this statement is false. I, Yanina Sokolovska, the editor in chief of the Izvestiya v Ukraine newspaper, strongly object to the statement that I was the ruling party's election candidate. I have never been a member of any party. Neither I personally, nor Izvestiya v Ukraine serve any political interests. This newspaper, which has a 93-year history, welcomes all points of view. It has published the views of the historian Kostyantyn Bondarenko, the human rights activist and former political prisoner Semyon Gluzman, and the political scientists Kostyantyn Matvienko and Mykhailo Pogrebynsky. The suggestion that Izvestiya is a pro-government publication is not true. I ask you to retract it. I, Yanina Sokolovska, categorically deny that we refused to publish Serhiy Leshchenko’s response. As editor in chief of the newspaper Izvestiya v Ukraine, I insisted that Leshchenko’s assertions be supported by documentation. This fully complies with European standards for mass media activities. Checking the facts is a basis of journalistic work in Ukraine and in Europe, and all over the world. And Reporters Without Borders knows this. Our independent verification of some of Leshchenko’s statements did not confirm their authenticity. The statement that censorship was applied to Leshchenko’s response is not true. I am asking to you to retract it. By publishing these untrue statements, Reporters Without Borders has exposed itself. It could have been avoided if fact checking had been carried out. Oksana Romaniuk, the Reporters Without Borders representative in Ukraine, assured Vyacheslav Pikhovshek that she did not write that statement. As regards the article, reread it! The article is about a possible scenario for destabilizing the political situation in Ukraine, and how the journalist's death could be used for this. There was a similar situation in Ukrainian history, involving the death of the journalist Georgyi Gongadze. We do not want the same to happen again. Given that experience and these assumptions, it would be unfair and irresponsible to keep silence. However, we deny categorically that we blame the opposition political forces for the death of Gongadze and potential attacks on other journalists. We do not have the facts to make any such assertion. We deny that the article was published to pressure, threaten, intimidate or make anybody remain silent. We also have also been under threat because of our professional activities, so we know how it is. As regards Reporters Without Borders’ right to its own evaluation, we have our own opinion. On 29 December, before this article was published in Izvestiya v Ukraine, similar material appeared on the Ukrainian Internet resource Tema. It asserted that some journalists including Leshchenko were under threat. On 14 January, Yury Lukanov wrote about this in his blog on the Korrespondent website. Why did Reporters Without Borders not respond to these posts? Did you not know about them? If you did, why did you not regard them as “pressure” or “threats”? In our view, after the publication of the articles and the public’s response, including the statement by Reporters Without Borders, the possibility of deliberate attempts on journalists’ lives in Ukraine has declined sharply and is close to zero now. This is our belief. Reporters Without Borders will confirm or deny its adherence to the rules of European journalism by publishing or not publishing our response. Future action or inaction by Reporters Without Borders will help us to elaborate a further strategy for protecting ourselves. Vyacheslav Pikhovshek and Yanina Sokolovska -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Death threats against website journalist echo Georgiy Gongadze murder

Reporters Without Borders is deeply shocked by the scarcely veiled death threats against independent journalist Serhiy Leshchenko that were expressed by Vyacheslav Pikhovshek, a PR consultant who supports President Viktor Yanukovych, in an opinion piece published in the pro-government newspaper Izvestiya v Ukrayine. Leshchenko is an influential journalist who often writes about corruption for Ukrayinska Pravda, a news website founded by Georgiy Gongadze, an outspoken reporter who was murdered in September 2000. In his article, published on 26 January, Pikhovshek claimed to be “concerned” about Leshchenko’s fate, likening his position to Gongadze’s in 2000 and suggesting that he was best-placed to be the next journalist murdered in Ukraine. He went on to say that the opposition could be in favour of murdering Leshchenko so that the blame could be put on the government. “These comments are despicable and dangerous,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Suggesting that Leshchenko could suffer the same fate as Gongadze is a barely disguised death threat, one that is particularly revolting as the people behind Gongadze’s murder have still not been brought to justice although ten years have gone by.” The press freedom organisation added: “The comments are all the disturbing because they come from someone who is close to the government. They are a form of manipulation designed to intimidate and silence Leshchenko. They also implicitly try to blame Gongadze’s murder on the opposition.” It is also significant that Izvestiya v Ukrayine’s editor, Yanina Sokolovska, who was a ruling party election candidate, refused to publish Leshchenko’s response in its entirety. She was ready to publish a version from which all criticism of the government had been removed, but Lechenko declined. “European democratic principles provide for the right of reply,” Leshchenko responded. “The newspaper you edit published an article in which I was portrayed as a journalist who should be killed for bringing the government into disrepute. I would like you to give me the opportunity to publish in your newspaper a complete response to this article, without any censorship.” Reporters Without Borders calls on Izvestiya v Ukrayine to have the honesty and decency to publish Leshchenko’s response, and to refrain from carrying such irresponsible and violent articles as Pikhovshek’s in the future.