Direct Action Journalism against Corruption in Ukraine

In October 2017, local citizens of Cherkassy region of Ukraine have witnessed unusual events. Almost 40 human rights defenders and journalists from all regions of Ukraine arrived in Uman and Monastyrishche for conducting a raid to local government institutions to which local public had a lot of questions оn corruption cases.

This event received a great response in the local community and became a powerful factor to involve local residents to combating corruption among local authorities and to suppress corrupt practices. The above-mentioned human rights defenders and journalists are members of all-Ukrainian regional network of NGO “Stop Corruption”. They monthly carry out such actions in cities where the local government and State law enforcement agencies do not take appropriate measures to expose corruption.

NGO “Stop Corruption”, a Ukrainian nonpartisan nonprofit Independent Agency for Investigative Journalism, which promotes democracy reforms making public the facts of corruption, abuse in power, as well as encouraging whistleblowers and human rights activists to participate in anti-corruption activities. Pop-culture of Ukrainians is featured by high tolerance to corruption, and this contributes to the widespread corruption.

Low involvement of local citizens in local governance and civic control leads to abuse of power by government officials. That is why the strategy of NGO "Stop Corruption" focuses on the integration of investigative journalism into democratic processes of local communities. That's why NGO "Stop Corruption" does not only report the society about the criminal cases, but makes significant efforts for social change.

OO "Stop corruption" understands Direct Action Investigative Journalism as a coordinated action of investigative journalists and local civil society activists directed to preventing and eliminating corruption in local communities. By joint efforts they identify problems, conduct investigations, develop policy proposals for local authorities, carry out a mass civil actions and mass media information campaigns, create public opinion and exert pressure on local authorities in order to achieve a wider public involvement and positive changes - more transparent and accountable governance. "Success stories" demonstrate the opportunity to win corruption, to impact on popular culture and changing public attitudes to corruption.

Such sequence of actions of NGO "Stop Corruption" also preceded the events of October 2017. Investigative journalists together with local human right defenders have exposed several corrupt schemes of obtaining illegal income by persons closely associated with the local authorities in the cities of Uman and Monastyrishche, Cherkassy region.

The investigations was published in the local media and reported on national television, submitted to the state law enforcement bodies for verification and response. But later it turned out that in strange way criminal proceedings against corrupt officials has been closed and criminal schemes continued to work. That is why public activists and journalists gathered in these cities.

The City Of Uman. Recently, 112 hectares of garden were distributed here with violation of the land legislation. 2 hectares of land were allocated for private use not for common citizens, but directly to the families of local deputies and City Head.

- “This land plot was shared among 57 persons, two hectares per each”– says the Leader of a local branch of the NGO "Stop Corruption" in Uman, Ruslana Parfenova.

A resident of the village Kocherzhyntsi, Aleksey has been standing in a queue for a land plot for a long time, but somehow here he was not allocated with it.

On this fact there were opened criminal proceedings, but the Uman Prosecutor's Office somehow closed them; therefore the prosecutor's office became the first location of the anti-corruption raid of the joint team of activists.

After the visit of ”StopCor”, the local Prosecutor promised to make the inspection of facts in the near future; the activists, in turn, will continue to control the land issue. Since the land plot was not distributed among ordinary locals but families of local deputies and the Mayor, the team of "StopCor" went directly to the City Council (Rada}. The Mayor avoided any contacts with the activists; so they left him a letter with demands to cancel illegal decision and to notify officially that the issue remains under public control.

The next location of the "StopCor" Raid was the town of Monastyrishche. Here, a lot of questions arose to the Chairman of the district Rada, Mykola Orendarchuk. The man repeatedly became a hero of the investigations of "StopCor". And recently, it is Monastyrischensky, where District Rada initiated and acted as the Contractor for the reconstruction of the Square with budget allocations of 11.5 million UAH.

During its restoration, there were found the remains of the Polish cemetery. But the fact was not given to the publicity. No excavations were carried out since excavation is a stopover of reconstruction and according to the Plan, the reconstruction is to be completed by November of this year, otherwise 11.5 million is to be returned to the budget.

Then the local activist Yuri Zavorotniy began to raise this issue promptly; he wrote letters to the relevant authorities and the Polish Embassy. But in few days, for some strange reasons illegal actions of law enforcement agencies were carried out against him. Without any explanation, the police arrested the man and in handcuffs he was taken to the Police. There, Yuri stayed for three days, and only after the interfering of the “Stop Corruption” team, it was succeeded to release the man.

Therefore, during the RAID, the activists began to seek answers to all the questions in the District Council (Rada). But the Chairman of the District Rada, Mykola Orendarchuk also managed to avoid contact with the activists, citing to a business trip. In fact, there was no any Order for business trip. That is, explaining in simple words, Mykola Orendarchuk just ran away from "Stop Corruption". The team called the police and recorded the absenteeism of the Chairman of the District Rada.

Also, despite Mr. Orendarchuk occupies of a state office, he is engaged in entrepreneurial activity. In the Declaration, he indicated that he rented 100 hectares of land. But whether he pays money for renting to the local budget - it is unknown. About this “StopCor” team decided to ask the Head of District Administration, Oleg Pagoda. By the way, Mr. Pagoda, whose immediate responsibilities include the control over the content of the local and regional budget, stubbornly refused to provide any explanation to the activists, sending the team back to Orendarchuk. He is playing a role of the Patron since they are relatives. They got in power, in fact, as a family clan. Here are the facts:

The Head of the District State Administration is married to the sister of the Head of the District Rada, and this common relative takes a position of the Director of the Department of Finance in DSA, by the way with a separate accounting. The uncle of the Head of the District Rada is responsible for social support service, where there is also a separate accounting. Another uncle is a Deputy, and his sister is an accountant in the Education Department, DSA.

The Head of the District State Administration is married to the sister of the Head of the District Rada, and this common relative takes a position of the Director of the Department of Finance in DSA, by the way with a separate accounting. The uncle of the Head of the District Rada is responsible for social support service, where there is also a separate accounting. Another uncle is a Deputy, and his sister is an accountant in the Education Department, DSA.

The Head of the District State Administration is married to the sister of the Head of the District Rada, and this common relative takes a position of the Director of the Department of Finance in DSA, by the way with a separate accounting. The uncle of the Head of the District Rada is responsible for social support service, where there is also a separate accounting. Another uncle is a Deputy, and his sister is an accountant in the Education Department, DSA.

Together with the residents, “Stop Corruption” team called the police and wrote a Petition for suppression of the crime, and then went to the home of the odious local Prince. The man came out to the perturbed community and activists, but the dialogue did not take place. He was so scared of so many people.

In the end, the Stop Corruption team promises to return to officials who have escaped from a public meeting and uncomfortable questions. Activists assert: all corrupt acts will have to be answered.

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