Journalists Outraged by Ukrainian Court’s Decision to Allow Access to Muckraker’s Phone
4 September, 2018

Journalists and NGOs have expressed their outrage over a Kyiv court’s decision to allow the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) to access information from the telephone of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty investigative journalist and host of Schemes program Natalie Sedletska. They have demanded that the Ukrainian PGO not act on this decision.

The following is the text of the letter:

Journalists are outraged by this dangerous precedent that restricts freedom of speech.

On August 27, Kyiv’s Pechersk District Court granted the Prosecutor General’s Office access to text messages, calls and locations from the phone of journalist and editor-in-chief of the anti-corruption investigative program Schemes Natalie Sedletska for a period of 17 months. This decision is linked to the case surrounding the alleged disclosure of state secrets and pre-trial investigation into Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau head Artem Sytnyk, in which Sedletska and a number of other journalists are witnesses.

We are outraged by this decision as it not only creates an extremely dangerous precedent for the country’s media work, but because it violates numerous rights and laws, as well as Ukraine’s international obligations. In particular, the right to freedom of speech and a private life. Additionally, it creates conditions that make it extremely difficult, or impossible, for journalists to carry out their professional duties and protect their sources of information, which is guaranteed in Ukrainian law.

What is especially cynical is that the country has no mechanisms for appealing court decisions, such as the appalling decision of the Pechersk court. We demand that the Verkhovna Rada immediately correct this legislative conflict and create mechanisms to protect the right and duty of journalists to provide society with quality information, especially when it comes to highlighting corruption among high-level officials. We demand that the Prosecutor General publicly guarantees that this decision will not be acted upon.

In addition, we think it necessary to point out that the precedent to allow access to information from a journalist’s phone for 1.5 years was not created under the authoritarian regimes of either President Leonid Kuchma, or Viktor Yanukovych.

We find it deeply distressing that the country’s current leaders, who came to power after the Revolution of Dignity under slogans of protecting democracy, in some cases after prison terms under the previous regimes, discredit and undermine the basic principles of that democracy – in particular the institution of freedom of speech and press, which is the cornerstone of democracy.

We also demand that law enforcement agencies fulfill their immediate duties, such as the investigation into the murder of our colleague Pavel Sheremet, as well as the cases of corruption, which our journalists, particularly Natalie Sedletska, are focusing on, instead of harassing journalists or filing cases against them.

NGO Hromadske TV

Kyiv Post

Anti-corruption Action Center

Iryna Romaliyska, journalist

Saken Aymurzaev, journalist

Zaborona, NGO Cross Media

Kristina Berdynskykh, journalist at newspaper Novoye Vremya

Christopher Miller, correspondent

NGO Slidstvo.Info

NGO Regional Press Development Institute

Oleksandra Yefymenko, journalist

Tetyana Danylenko, television presenter

Sevgil Musayeva, editor-in-chief of Ukrayinska Pravda

Mykhailo Tkach, journalist at investigative program Schemes

Tetiana Bezruk, journalist

Ian Bateson, correspondent

Simon Ostrovsky, journalist

Gulliver Cragg, journalist

Petro Shuklinov, head of the socio-political section of

Tetyana Kozyryeva, journalist

Yulia McGuffie, editor-in-chief

Denys Bihus,

Stephane Siohan, journalist

NGO Detector Media

Anastasia Magazova, journalist

Iryna Slavinska, journalist

Tatiana Kozak, journalist

Tetyana Vysotska, journalist

Andrii Bashtovyi, editor-in-chief The Village Ukraine

Serhiy Sydorenko, European Pravda

Yuriy Panchenko, European Pravda

Free Press Unlimited (the Netherlands)

NGO Institute of Mass Information

Pavel Krasnomovets, journalist

Ihor Haidai, photographer

Tetiana Popova, Exert at NGO Information Security

Zurab Alasania, Chairman of the Board, National Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine

Жанна Безп’ятчук, журналістка

Zhanna Bezpiatchuk, journalist

Volodymyr Yermolenko, NGO Hromadske TV, Internews-Ukraine

Anatoliy Martsynovski, European Pravda

Arina Krapka, journalist, Center for Journalist Investigations Syla Pravdy

Anastasia Rozlutska, NGO Ukrainskiy Svit

Diana Dutsyk, acting director NGO Ukrainian Institute of Media and Communication

Tetiana Kurmanova, journalist

Maksym Opanasenko, journalist “Our Money with Denys Bihus” and Svidomo

Alya Shandra, editor, Euromaidan Press

Myroslava Petsa, journalist

Lyudmyla Tyahnyryadno, Suspilne Radio

Lesia Bakulyuk, Channel 24

Olga Shalayska, NGO Center of Social Initiatives ATOM

Mridula Ghosh, correspondent

Nataliya Pysanka, correspondent

Andriy Yanitskiy, collective

Paul Niland

Markiian Lyseiko, documentary photographer

Kateryna Venzhyk, journalist

Vitalii Atanasov, journalist

Valery Kalnysh, editor-in-chief Radio NV

Marharyta Tulup,

Olga Musafirova, correspondent Novaya Gazeta in Ukraine

Marina Berdichevskaya, journalist

Halyna Coynash, Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group

Inna Varenytsia, journalist

Kyrylo Loukerenko, Hromadske Radio

NGO Human Rights Information Center

Yulia Vakulko, journalist

Anna Murlykina, CitySites network