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Tuesday, 19 September, 2000, 17:27 GMT 18:27 UK
Outspoken Ukraine journalist missing
Missing journalist Georgiy Gongadze
Georgiy Gongadze is a relentless critic of the government
A journalist who runs a controversial internet newspaper in Ukraine has disappeared, not long after he complained of government harassment.

Georgiy Gongadze, founder of the Ukrayinska Pravda (Ukrainian Truth) web site, was last seen on Saturday night when he left a friend's house for home.

The country's parliament and journalists have urged the government to fully investigate the disappearance. More than 80 journalists signed an open letter to President Leonid Kuchma, calling on the authorities to ensure press freedom.

Mr Gongadze, a journalist for many years, set up the web site earlier this year. Critical of President Kuchma, the so-called big business "oligarchs" and the official media, it specialises in political news and commentary.

Secret police

It has already got Mr Gongadze into trouble. In June, he wrote an open letter to the prosecutor-general, complaining that he had been forced into hiding because of harassment from the secret police.

He said he and his family were being followed, his staff were being harassed, and the secret police were spreading a rumour that he was wanted on a murder charge.

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma
President Kuchma: Under attack

In an open letter to the president and parliament, leading journalists said that "during the years of Ukrainian independence, not a single high-profile crime against journalists has been fully resolved".

President Kuchma reacted swiftly to Mr Gongadze's disappearance.

He told law enforcement chiefs to take charge of the investigation and said he had issued instructions to investigate all cases of missing journalists in Ukraine.

Timid media

Both state-owned and independent TV and radio channels have been carrying regular reports on the case.

Ukraine boasts a large number of newspapers and TV networks, most of them owned or controlled by big business oligarchs. Few dare to be critical of the head of state. Ukrayinska Pravda was an exception.

President Kuchma has been criticised by the New-York based Committee to Protect Journalists as an enemy of the press.

A leading anti-corruption politician, Hryhoriy Omelchenko, said the disappearance coincided with Mr Gongadze receiving documents on corruption within the president's entourage.

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:

15 Nov 99 | Europe
Cloud over Ukraine election
12 Nov 99 | Europe
Profile: Leonid Kuchma
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