Pavel Sheremet, a journalist for Ukraine’s Ukrayinska Pravda newspaper, was murdered by car bomb in 2016. For three years, there seemed to be no progress in the case, until December 2019, when the government announced that they have located and arrested various suspects related to the murder.
Tetiana Popova, an ex-deputy minister of information policy, was in government at the time, though she says she left after Sheremet’s murder. She says that Ukraine’s image was damaged by the murder, and by the lack of progress for the following years, and that it could have contributed to former president Petro Poroshenko’s defeat in the recent presidential elections.
“From my point of view, that is one of the reasons why Poroshenko later failed. Because a lot of journalists, first of all, started to distrust his methods of working and supporting journalists,” Popova said at a recent airing of the Sunday Show, adding that Poroshenko soured on journalists after the publishing of the Panama Papers, which revealed several offshore accounts used by the former president.
This mistrust towards journalists under the previous administration has allowed Russia to outflank Ukraine on a topic that Russia usually is itself not a shining beacon of – press freedom. “Several mistakes made by the previous government which allowed Russians to say that Ukrainians...are trying to attack journalists,” Popova pointed out.
And, Popova speculates, Sheremet’s murder may not have been the Ukrainians at all. “It’s definitely not [the suspects'] personal idea to do that. It’s either internal players, or external who ordered this crime...But [the authorities] didn’t say who ordered it. That’s – from my point of view – what’s strange with this briefing. They should investigate more and come to the public with more information,” commented Popova.
Until a true paymaster for the crime, if there is one at all, is announced, however – journalists in Ukraine will continue to feel the ramifications of Sheremet’s murder, and mistrust – between the authorities and journalists – will continue.
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