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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 March, 2004, 21:31 GMT
Ukraine radio chief 'forced' to flee
Radio Kontynent
Radio Kontynent

The head of a Ukrainian rebroadcaster of several Western-funded radio stations has fled the country, saying he has received threats.

Serhiy Sholokh, director of independent Radio Kontynent in Kiev, said his station came under pressure after it announced it would start rebroadcasting US-funded Radio Liberty programmes.

Radio Kontynent was taken off the air on Wednesday, as police seized its transmitter.

The Ukrainian authorities said Kontynent had not been licensed to broadcast in the popular FM band.

Threats

Mr Sholokh said he was threatened by representatives of the United Social Democratic Party, headed by presidential chief of staff Viktor Medvedchuk.

"They told me that if I started rebroadcasting Radio Liberty, that would be the end of me and my station," Interfax-Ukraine news agency quoted Mr Sholokh as saying.

"If I agreed to co-operate with them without making this public, they said everything would be all right."

Mr Sholokh told the agency by phone he had fled to an unspecified country and would return only if Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma guaranteed his personal safety.

Jammed

Kontynent said in a press release on Wednesday that its programmes had been jammed after it announced it would start rebroadcasting Radio Liberty.

The station has often come out in support of the Ukrainian opposition and rebroadcast the BBC, Voice of America and Deutsche Welle.

Radio Liberty's previous FM partner in Kiev, Radio Dovira, cancelled their rebroadcasting contract after its head was replaced with a supporter of Mr Kuchma.

Dovira said Radio Liberty broadcasts did not fit into its programming format.

Authorities in Ukraine have been severely criticised by Western governments and human rights groups.

They accuse Mr Kuchma of stifling media freedom in the former Soviet republic ahead of a presidential election due in October.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.




SEE ALSO:
Country profile: Ukraine
02 Mar 04  |  Country profiles


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