The Pechersk District Court of Kyiv, at the request of the Prosecutor General’s Office, granted permission to receive access to calls, communications and data on the location of the phone of the journalist and chief editor of the “Schemes” investigations Nataliya Sedletska from July 2016 to November 2017. As Radio Liberty emphasizes, during these 17 months, the editorial office of the program carried out and made a number of investigations into high-ranking officials, not omitting even the Prosecutor General. The reasons for such a decision and the outrage of journalists – in reactions from the Opinion.
According to Andriy Lysenko, the spokesman of the GPU, such a court decision was made due to the need to set the time, date and place of the alleged divulging of State secrets by Artem Sitnik, Director of NABU. In this situation, journalist Nataliya Sedletska acts as a possible witness. Lysenko stresses: it’s not about receiving the content of conversations, the content of messages and wiretap of a journalist, interference in professional activities and private life also won’t be carried out.
The journalist herself said that during the 17 months that security officials got access to her calls, communications and phone numbers, she and her colleagues exposed the high-level corruption in the country every week and, like every professional journalist, talked with sources. However, it was made not through the ordinary calls and messages, but through secure channels, which the prosecutor’s office won’t be able to access. Sedletskaya is sure: the subordinates of Yuriy Lutsenko are looking for this because the most valuable thing in the work of each investigative journalist is his source.
The journalist emphasizes: the investigator of the GPU, on his own or because of the misleading of the leadership, was given access to a large amount of mostly private data that has nothing to do with the investigation of the case. In view of this, Sedletska regards such a step as an attempt to interfere with her private life, which is completely unjustified by the needs of the investigation.
The “Schemes” investigation program team spread an official statement in the network, it condemned persecution and pressure put on Sedletska. According to journalists, they have reason to believe that this investigation by the GPU and such a decision of the court is carried out for the purpose of psychological pressure and further impeding the professional activities of journalists since Lutsenko and his subordinates have repeatedly become main “heroes” in investigations of the Scheme program.
However, the authors of the statement stressed: neither this step nor the further ones will force them to stop working on new investigations of the “Schemes” program in accordance with the high standards of Radio Liberty.
However, Nataliya Sedletska is not the only witness in the case of Sitnik’s disclosure of information. This was told by Kristina Berdynskykh, who acts as the witness in the same case. Considering the last event, the journalist has a logical question: will her phone be tapped and for what period?
Berdtnskyh also added that the investigator could have guessed that journalists don’t conduct an investigation in SMS-correspondence. And no matter how many commercials have the GPU made, they still have quite understandable problems with communication, the press, and, obviously, a very slow pace: the law enforcers decided to check the phone o Shedletska only 9 months after interrogation.
Many journalists, bloggers and politicians stood up in support of the “Schemes” and Nataliya Sedletska. In particular, the journalist Denys Bigus was outraged with the period of time the prosecutor’s office got access to the journalist’s data. Therefore according to the logic that one day, when, in fact, Mr Sitnik presumably told the secret information, would be enough. In fact, according to Bigus, such actions of the department of Lutsenko are demonstrative, they say, “if we want, we will check everything publicly.”
Solidarity with the Radio Liberty team and Nataliya Sedletska was also expressed by the head of the Union of Journalists of Ukraine Sergiy Tomilenko, who called for a cessation of pressure on journalists. According to him, instead of a public report on the state of investigations of crimes against journalists, the Prosecutor General’s Office will dig the personal correspondence and contacts of the leader of “Schemes”.
TV host and actress Yanina Sokolova even called such actions of the prosecutor’s office as a wake-up call, and persecution of journalists for revealing the schemes of corrupt officials she called a “ferocious case”.
But the blogger Sergii Naumovych is convinced that the answer to all these questions is hiding in the approaching elections since the main task of the authorities is now to clear the information space. Everything is simple: it will be too late in spring.
The MP and ex-journalist Serhiy Leshchenko is convinced: among the information that the General Prosecutor has access, the main thing is not calls or messages, but the movement of her phone since it enables them to follow the movement of Sedletska in the city, country and abroad for 17 months.
The journalist Pavlo Korobchuk also didn’t agree with the actions of security forces. According to him, this is an incredibly savage precedent in the history of Ukrainian journalism.
Journalist Nataliya Sokolenko, instead, noted that prosecutors should be interested in somewhat different issues. For example, why there is still no judgement in Kulik’s case and why the trial based on the materials collected by NABU lasts for more than two years.
The blogger and journalist Petro Shuklinov stated that it was already really not so shameful to look at the work of GPU, because it is clear that it wouldn’t be better. According to the author of the post, against the backdrop of a complete failure in the fight against the revanchism, to attack the remnants of objective media – is a bullying of common sense and recognition of the inability to work in frames of the Russian-Ukrainian war.
Tetyana Popova, former Deputy Minister of Information Policy of Ukraine, emphasized that the control over calls and correspondence of a journalist works first of all against those people in power who ordered it and speak about the existence of information that someone is trying to carefully hide. Popova sees a way out of the situation, only in one thing: the prosecutor’s office has to apologize to Sedletska and refuse the received access.
However, the MP Mustafa Nayyem is sure that the only one – Yuriy Lutsenko – can stop this nonsense. After all, as a former journalist, he himself should understand the absurdity of such a decision. Nayyem explained: he doesn’t oppose an investigation against Sitnik, but in this situation, the actions of law-enforcers are more likely to resemble the desire to take revenge on the journalist.
Another deputy, Svitlana Zalishchuk, expressed a somewhat different point of view. In her opinion, Yuriy Lutsenko is trying to “drown” the head of the NABU, and therefore is struggling for some dirt on him. For this, in fact, he had to stoop to the means of “predecessors”. However, the decision of the Prosecutor General’s Office violates not only Ukrainian but also international legislation on freedom of speech, therefore Zalishchuk, along with other deputies, will require a meeting with Lutsenko.
Reactions were gathered and jokes were given up by Stepan the Goat