May 18, 2021

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Documentary on Gongadze’s murder explains why Ukraine is what it is today and why journalism is important

Documentary on Gongadze's murder explains why Ukraine is what it is today and why journalism is important

05/03/2021 – 18:27 •


An English language version of the documentary “The Gongadze Murder: 20 Years of Searching for the Truth” is out for World Press Freedom Day.

The film by Ukrainian journalists Nataliya Gumenyuk, Maxim Kamenev and Anna Tsyhyma tells the story of the murder of Georgiy Gongadze, political journalist and co-founder of one of the country’s first and most influential online publications, Ukrainska Pravda.

“In 2021, World Press Freedom Day is dedicated to the care of information as a public good. Attacks on journalists who work to keep those in power accountable by informing their society are attacks on the public good. However what we have seen is that the unsolved crimes against journalists and the emptiness and impunity they leave in the public sphere lead to a broken justice system in which justice cannot be found. This film is for anyone who wants to understand why Ukraine is what it is now, but it is also universal because it explains why journalism is important. Yet on this day I don’t just want to be pessimistic. Although the judicial system continued to fail, it was the Ukrainian journalists themselves who shed light on this case and made a cover-up impossible. So while this is a tragedy, it is also a story of resilience and why the lessons of the past matter “, says the documentary’s co-author and producer, Nataliya Gumenyuk.

It has been 20 years since the kidnapping and murder of Georgiy Gongadze. However, the Ukrainian company has not yet received the definitive answer to the question: “Who is to blame for the journalist’s murder?”. The nation learned exactly how the journalist was killed, who the perpetrators were, they were even convicted. However, there is still no answer as to what the role of the second president of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma was.

The absence of a clear answer is the reason why even the main protagonists of the film “The assassination of Gongadze: 20 years of searching for the truth” – Ukrainian journalists and Georgiy’s friends and colleagues – are re-evaluating the events of that time. the role of key participants, who remain protagonists of Ukrainian politics.

The film includes interviews with nearly two dozen Ukrainian journalists who either knew Georgiy Gongadze personally or were investigating his murder for the past two decades. The Gongadze case has been a challenge not only for them but also for several generations of Ukrainian journalists and activists who have spent years trying to establish the truth and focus public attention on the importance of uncovering this crime.

The film The murder of Gongadze: 20 years in search of the truth ”also tells how relations between the Ukrainian media and the authorities have changed in the last 20 years. The protagonists of the film not only speak in detail about Georgiy Gongadze, but also about Ukrainian journalism and Ukraine under its second president Leonid Kuchma.

The film explains who took advantage of the journalist’s murder, inside and outside the country, the forces involved in the political and geopolitical game and the evolution of Ukrainian society from the first national protests – “Ukraine without Kuchma” and Orange Revolution – to Euromaidan.

It also explains why impunity remains a hallmark of Ukrainian justice, and the unsolved cases of that era still determine the life of modern Ukraine.

“The story of Georgiy Gongadze’s murder provides an understanding of the context in which the current generation of Ukrainians were formed, their distrust of the government and the formation of civil society that journalists were part of. They were active citizens who actually forced the authorities to punish the journalist’s killer “, explains the author of the idea for the film, Maxim Kamenev.

A Ukrainian-language premiere of the documentary “The Murder of Gongadze: 20 Years of Searching for the Truth” took place in September 2020 by the Ukrainian public broadcaster. The film was made by the Ukrainian NGO “Public Interest Journalism Lab”, an interdisciplinary coalition of journalists and sociologists seeking to disseminate best practices for public interest journalism in the digital age by developing editorial strategies based on sociological research and analyzing the reactions of different audiences.

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Tags: Gongadze, media, media freedom