KIEV (May. 15)
The battle may be lost, but the war is far from over.That’s the message from the weekly newspaper Stolychni Novosty, or Capital News, after it lost a $565,000 defamation lawsuit concerning a series of articles that accused the Interregional Academy for Personnel Management and the academy’s publications of anti-Semitism.
“The decision was a real shock because the academy openly expresses anti-Semitic and racist views,” said Eduard Dolinsky, executive director of the United Jewish Community of Ukraine, an organization headed by Stolychni publisher and media mogul Vadim Rabinovich, a Ukrainian Jewish leader. “Of course, we’ll appeal. I see it as a long and difficult process as we try to raise public awareness both inside and outside Ukraine.” According to Stolychni lawyer Maria Shvetz, the controversy erupted in 2002 when the newspaper began addressing what it saw as blatantly inflammatory articles published in the private academy’s monthly magazine, Personnel.
The magazine has consistently published articles by academy managers and other authors highly critical of Israeli policy, which it says is based on supposedly expansionist Zionist ideology. It also published work by American white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, whom the academy invited to lecture at an international conference in May 2002.
Shvetz said hearings in the lawsuit began in June 2002 and focused on some 45 points in the Stolychni articles.
Rabinovich criticized the Perchersk court, where he said Stolychni Novosty has lost 72 of 72 such cases over the past year.
“The problem is not the law but the law of the jungle, where he who is strongest uses his power to win such cases,” Rabinovich said.
The Interregional Academy for Personnel Management is politically connected: The school’s board of trustees is headed by former Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk and has included prominent opposition politicians such as Viktor Yushchenko, leader of the Our Ukraine bloc.
A spokeswoman for Igor Slisarenko, vice president of the academy and editor of Personnel, said he was traveling on business and was unavailable to provide reaction to the decision.
But he recently delivered a broadside against the newspaper.
“These invented, offensive accusations were determined by the court to have been delivered in a cynical way and with malicious intent,” Slisarenko was quoted as saying recently by the Liga Biznesinform news service. “The defendant was actually aware it was breaking the law.”
But Dolinsky said the pressure brought to bear by the Stolychni articles and the Jewish community has had some effect.
He said Yushchenko, the opposition politician, has severed ties with the academy, though his photograph still appears on the school’s Internet homepage.
Rabinovich said letters have been issued seeking the opinions of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, the Parliament and the Supreme Court.
Dolinsky said the same support that the United Jewish Community of Ukraine rallied in the case of an attack on the city’s central Brodsky Synagogue last year — which resulted in the first criminal conviction under Ukraine’s law against inciting inter-ethnic hatred — would be applied in the appeal of the academy ruling.