KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's press freedom has declined since the election of the new Russia-friendly president earlier this year, a global media rights watchdog said.
Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said in a statement issued Thursday that the ex-Soviet nation has seen a return of intimidation and physical attacks on journalists and abuse of authority toward the media over the past three months.
The group expressed concern about Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych's decision earlier this month to disband the national commission on freedom of speech. It urged Yanukovych to explain his move and spell out his media policy.
The UNIAN news agency quoted Yanukovych's deputy chief of staff, Anna German, as saying Friday that the commission's functions were given to a newly created body that she heads.
Yanukovych was elected on Feb. 7, unseating his political rivals who were catapulted to power by massive 2004 protests against election fraud dubbed the Orange Revolution. He campaigned on a promise to expand ties with neighboring Russia, which badly worsened under his pro-Westerm predecessor, Viktor Yushchenko.
The media watchdog said Ukraine had risen significantly in its press freedom index in recent years, but positive trends have reversed since Yanukovych's election.
"Reporters Without Borders urges the president to uphold freedom of the press, which is enshrined in Ukraine's constitution and in various treaties and conventions that Ukraine has signed," the group said. "He must change his approach to the media and restore the trend of the past few years towards greater media freedom."