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Documentary on Gongadze murder explains why Ukraine is what it is today and why journalism matters

Documentary on Gongadze murder explains why Ukraine is what it is today and why journalism matters

An English-language version of the documentary “The Murder of Gongadze: 20 Years of Searching for the Truth” is being released 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, a political journalist and co-founder of one of the country’s first and most influential online publications, Ukrainska Pravda.

“In 2021, The World Press Freedom Day is devoted to cherishing information as a public good. The attacks on journalists who work to keep those in power accountable, informing their society, are attacks on the public good. Yet what we saw is that unsolved crimes against journalists and the void and impunity they leave in the public sphere lead to a broken justice system where justice cannot be found. This movie is for anybody who wants to understand why Ukraine is what it is now, but it is also universal as it explains why journalism matters. Yet on this day I do not just want to be pessimistic. Whilst the justice system continued to fail, it was Ukrainian journalists themselves who shone the 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 lessons of the past matter,” says co-author and producer of the documentary, Nataliya Gumenyuk.

20 years have passed since the abduction and murder of Georgiy Gongadze. However, Ukrainian society has not yet received the final answer to the question: “Who is to blame for the murder of the journalist?”. The nation learned exactly how the journalist was killed, who the direct perpetrators were, they even were sentenced. 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 the main protagonists of the movie “The Murder of Gongadze: 20 Years of Searching for the Truth” – Ukrainian journalists and friends and colleagues of Georgiy – are reevaluating the events of that time, as well the role of the key participants, who remain top players in Ukrainian politics.

The film includes interviews with nearly two dozen Ukrainian journalists who knew Georgiy Gongadze personally or were investigating his murder over 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 of Searching for the Truth” is also a story of how the relations between the Ukrainian media and the authorities have changed over the past 20 years. The film’s protagonists 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, both 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 the Orange Revolution – to Euromaidan.

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

“The story of the murder of Georgiy Gongadze provides an understanding of the context in which the current generation of Ukrainians was formed, their distrust of the government, and the formation of the civil society that journalists were part of. It was active citizens who actually forced the authorities to punish the journalist’s killer,” explains the author of the idea of 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 on the Ukrainian Public Broadcaster. The film was made by the Ukrainian NGO Public Interest Journalism Lab,” an interdisciplinary coalition of journalists and sociologists who seek to popularise the best practices for public interest journalism in the digital age by developing editorial strategies based on sociological research and analysis of the reactions of different audiences.


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