Under the shadow of corruption

kyiv3More than 160 investigative reporters from Ukraine and neighbouring countries met in  Kyiv in the weekend 19th and 20th of November to exchange experiences and intensify their networking.

One of the burning issues in Ukraine, the comprehensive corruption in the country, was high on both the agenda and the mingling. On this there was a session on cooperation between anticorruption institutions and the media. Here the former investigative reporter, now member of the Ukrainian parliament, Iegor Sobolev, stated that the reformers in parliament now had succeeded in creating the tools needed by reporters to expose corruption: Now it’s up to you to use them.

The participants met the award winning American reporter Tom Torok, who used to work for The New York Times,  and the Icelandic reporter Johannes Kr. Kristjansson, who did very important reporting with the Panama Papers. Paul Meyers from BBC showed a lot of tricks how to search in the internet and reporters from Ukraine, Russia, Armenia, Poland, Romania, Georgia presented their investigations on issues as different as the construction of a new stadium, the fight against tuberculosis and smuggling of amber.

kyiv2This was the 8th annual conference for investigative reporters in Ukraine and took as in earlier years place in the conference hotel Kozatsky Stan. It was made possible by donations from e.g. USAID,  Canadian government, Internews, German embassy in Kyiv, International Renaissance Foundation and Politiken-Fonden.

More photos: https://irrp.org.ua/instytut-rozvytku-regionalnoyi-presy-proviv-vosmu-shhorichnu-konferentsiyu-zhurnalistiv-rozsliduvachiv-ukrayiny/

 

l

No Foreign Medicine Over the Counter

belarusmedWhen Belarusians come to the pharmacy, they cannot buy the products that they are used to. Import of medicine has been reduced, and there has been a big effort to substitute them with Belarusian products. But pharmacists and customers are not happy with the quality.

In 2008, there were only 550 domestic drugs sold in Belarus, now there are 1.5 thousand of them. There are rumours of a “stop list” that requires officials to delay import licences to medicine imports from other countries. Mariya Ejsmant from Narodnaja Vola took a closer look.

Read the original text

Read the English translation

Still Looking for Missing Belarusians

Famous Belarusian politicians – Yury Zakharanka, Viktar Hanchar and a businessman Anatol Krasouski were kidnapped in Minsk in 1999. A TV cameraman Dzmitry Zavadski disappeared without a trace in the summer of 2000.

It has been repeatedly stated by the kidnapped people’s relatives as well as by lawyers and journalists that these crimes don’t have statutes of limitations, and that the patrons and executors of these crimes will be severely punished sooner or later.

Katsiaryna Andreyeva from the ‘Belarusian Partisan’ reporters have visited the people, who had relation to the most resonant criminal cases in Belarus.

Read the original investigation

Read the English translation

Illegal Drugs for Do-It-Yourself Sex Change

pasport31-year-old Iryna Bialcova (the name was changed for privacy) from Minsk, Belarus, had a sex-change operation in 2010-11 after heving treated herself with illegal male hormones. All the female organs were removed, she – now he – received a new birth certificate, a passport with a male name and a military ID. But later she realized that she had made the biggest mistake in her life. Today the girl considers herself a victim of the black market of hormones.

In Belarus it is very easy to get hold of the illegal hormones, and the black market thrives, and Iryna is not the only one regretting a sex change. Doctors warn of the consequences of the illegal market for hormones.

Olga Dzeksnis investigated the story for the Belarusian Journal.

Read the original text

Read the English translation

Money Loves Silence

loggingThe Ukrainian TV-program ‘Stop corruption’ has exposed systematic illegal logging and collection of old metal from the zone around the wrecked nuclear power plant Chernobyl.  It is a very profitable business, and authorities seem to do very little to stop it.

In the TV-documentary, we follow an activist guiding journalists around to the sites, where huge areas of trees are cut down. The TV-crew also operates a small drone that we can get an overview of the situation. The investigation is made by Roman Bochkala and was broadcast on Feb 27, 2016 on Channel 5 (National wide news channel).

See the original report in text and video

See the report with English subtitles

The report in longread format

 

Media Under Control in Southern Ukraine

mediaIn the southern regions of Ukraine, it is almost a matter of pride for businessmen, politicians and local officials to own their own media outlets. Out of many hundreds of newspapers registered, less than a dozen publish regularly. A lot of the content produced by these outlets is “ordered.”

In the Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv (495.000 inhabitants) you will find 20 news portals in the internet, 5 radio-tv channels and 250 registered newspapers and magazines of which around 10 will publish on a regular basis.

In neighbouring Kherson (330.000  inhabitants) you will also find 20 newsportals, 6 radio-tv channels and 200 registered newspapers and magazines of which 4 publish on a regular basis.

In both cities these media have almost monopoly when it comes to local and regional news, so the reporters Tetyana Haydabas and Olena Vasyna decided to find out who owns them. This should be easy. According to the law all media have to report their ownership to official registers. But no way.

The article “Media owners in Southern Ukraine: Who orders the ‘music’ of information in Mykolaiv and Kherson” was published on March 2, 2016 on the website of the Center for Investigative Journalism

Read the original article

Read the English translation

 

Big money in Illegal Ukrainian amber

Wherever you find precious stones like amber, you also find smugglers and organized crime. The Volyn region in Ukraine and the Russian enclave Kaliningrad – both with large deposits of the precious material – are no exceptions, and consequently the Polish city of Gdansk is the capital of a veritable industry of  illegal jewellery.

The Russian reporter Nikita Kuzmin and his Ukrainian colleague Maya Holub investigated how amber is mined illegally, crossing borders illegally and the structures behind the schemes. And surprise, surprise: a friend, Sergey Chemezov, of the Russian president Vladimir Putin is in this business.

The article “How Ukrainian Amber is Illegally Transported to Poland” by reporters Maya Holub from the Ukrainian/Polish newspaper “Monitor Wołyński” and Nikita Kuzmin from the Kaliningrad business portal Rugrad.eu was published online on the Corrupt.ua portal on February 24, 2016.

Read the original article (in Ukrainian)

Read the English translation

 

 

Dangerous Smoke from a Giant

People in the Kherson region in Southern Ukraine are suffering from poisonous smoke from the chemical plant Crimean Titan, which is situated right at the new border between Ukraine and occupied Crimea. In its 20 years of operation, the cancer rates in this region have gone up drastically.

Since Crimean Titan is located on the Crimean peninsula, which is now occupied by Russia, nobody responds to requests, and nobody is accountable for the damage.

The article “Smog over Crimean Titan” by reporter Oleh Baturin was published online at the Noviy Den website on December 11, 2015.

Read the original article

Read the English translation

(Photo: Noviy Den)

 

 

Cyprus Decides the Music in Kramatorsk

Kramatorsk in Eastern Ukraine  is a typical industrial city where everything was built around large industrial factories.  They are the main employers and main sources of income for the city council, so they more or less dictate what is going on in the city with 160.000 inhabitants.

Only little is known about the owners who hide themselves behind companies registered in Cyprus. Online portal Govorun published the article “Who is the owner of Kramatorsk?” on its website on December 3, 2015.

Read the original article

Read the English translation

 

 

 

A Not so Swedish Family

At first sight Misen Energy AB looks very much like a Swedish company, although the office in Gothenburg is very small.  But it’s the main shareholder of a large private Ukrainian gas company, Karpatygaz.

The Ukrainian reporter Dmytro Gnap decided to to take a closer look at its activities and owners. He ended up in a web of oligarchs, off shore companies and politicians – some of them connected to the gangster boss Semion Mogilevich who is wanted by FBI for financial crimes. Gnap also found a clear connection to the heroine from the ‘Orange Revolution’, Yulia Tymoshenko, who has introduced a law lowering the tax rate for Karpatygaz!

The story was broadcast on hromadske.tv on December 24, 2015.

See the story with English subtitles