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Ukraine: “Ashes of Freedom of Speech”

A few hundred people gathered [uk] at Kyiv's Independence Square on September 16, 2012, to honor the memory of Georgiy Gongadze, a Ukrainian journalist who disappeared on this day 12 years ago, and also more than 60 other journalists who have lost their lives in the years since Ukraine gained independence in 1991.

The participants of the memorial rally lit candles and stood around white paper boxes that had the names of the dead journalists written on them, as well as the words “honor,” “honesty,” “truth,” and “freedom of speech” (photo [uk] by Andriy Balan/@Andriy7MU).

Later, they set the boxes on fire (photo [uk] by Andriy Balan/@Andriy7MU), and also burned posters [uk] with portraits of the ex-President Leonid Kuchma and his former aide, Parliament Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn, who are believed to have played a crucial role in Gongadze's disappearance.

Georgiy Gongadze memorial rally of 2011. Photo by Veronica Khokhlova.

Georgiy Gongadze memorial rally of 2011. Photo by Veronica Khokhlova.

Leaving behind the symbolic “ashes of freedom of speech,” the people then marched uphill from Independence Square to the Presidential Administration compound, to demand a proper investigation of Gongadze's disappearance case.

User Anton Hurin (‏@AntonHurin) tweeted [uk]:

It's been 12 years, and the real guilty ones haven't been punished. Moreover, some of them are still around at the political arena. [...]

A Kyiv residents’ online community @Kyi_Net tweeted [uk]:

[...] The initial agreement was [to march] without any slogans, but people are chanting [along the way]: “Kuchma – to jail!”, “Freedom – to speech!”, “Out with the gang!” [...]

Olha Perekhrest (LJ user olli_grafomanka) posted photos from the memorial rally on her blog and wrote [uk]:

[...] It's the evening when one is thinking, “God forbid that my friends become political journalists.”

The names of those who had died were read. [Was found] hung, burnt alive, traces of injections on the body, a [contract killing], knife wounds, head wounds… People should not be dying because they are doing their job well. People should not be dying because of their profession.

We lit candles. Put flowers to the ashes of the freedom of speech. A minute of silence. But silence hung over Maidan [Independence Square] anyway. Only the metallic noises from the dismantling of the stage where a concert was held yesterday. Life went on outside the circle of the people [who came to the rally]. Some approached, asking what was going on. Some stayed. The names and faces were being burnt. And this cold metallic sound…

Freedom of speech the Ukrainian way – to come and yell at the wall.

But it's worth it to come and yell. At least to be able to hear yourself.

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