Freedom of Speech Barometer for December 2023
In December the IMI experts recorded 19 cases of freedom of speech violation in Ukraine. In 10 of those cases, the Ukrainian side was responsible, and six violations were committed by Russia targeting the media and journalists.
This is evidenced by the monthly monitoring "Freedom of Speech Barometer" by the Institute of Mass Information.
The crimes against the media committed by Russia include injuring journalists, death threats, cyber attacks, shelling resulting in media offices being destroyed and Ukrainian broadcasting being disabled, and media outlets closing down due to the war.
At the same time, the IMI recorded eight freedom of speech violations for which Ukrainian citizens are responsible. These include death threats, restricting access to public information, indirect pressure and cyber crime.
Vlada Liberova, an Ukrinform photographer and program co-host, was wounded in Donetsk oblast in December. She and her husband came under Russian fire while driving towards Avdiivka. According to her, she took an examination, which showed that a fragment four centimeters large got into the soft tissues of her body; now she cannot move on her own.
A Ukrainian interpreter for the German TV channel ZDF and a British citizen working as a security advisor for a team of German journalists were injured by the Russian shelling strike on Kharkiv on December 30. At the time of the explosion, the channel's team was in the Kharkiv Palace Hotel, which was hit by a Russian missile. The channel's reporter Alica Jung, who was staying at the hotel, said that it was a miracle that everyone survived. The interpreter was wounded in the hall: she broke a rib and three vertebrae. She has been hospitalized.
Moreover, the Russian rocket strike on Kharkiv damaged the office of the media group "Objektyv", where the TRC "Simon" is based. The windows in the building were broken, making a hole in the studio. The "Objektyv" newsroom, editing rooms and other offices of the company were damaged. Some equipment is also broken.
The Dnipro online media outlet "Dnipro Operatyvny" received three messages claiming that explosives have been planted at their office. Such were sent to the editorial inbox on December 15, 16, and 17. According to the editor-in-chief Olesya Antoshkina, the team always calls the police, but the messages are usually false. The editor believes these messages have to do with the Russians.
Digital broadcasting in Nikopol, Dnipropetrovsk oblast, has been unavailable for over three months due to Russian shelling. The radio has been working intermittently. The locals can only learn the news when Internet connection is available. In her comment to the regional IMI representative, the representative of the National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting in the Dnipropetrovsk oblast, Olena Demchenko, noted that they are aware of the problem. She says that in the morning of December 18, a drone hit the tower again and dislodged three antennas. Earlier, Suspilne Dnipro reported that the Russians are targeting the telecom equipment and firing at repair crews. Moreover, the Russian television signal reaches Nikopol. Nikopol has been under daily fire throughout the full-scale invasion.
Donetsk and Luhansk online media outlet "Skhidmy Variant" has suffered a cyber attack: their Instagram account was blocked over the last two months. The editorial team believes it's a Russian bot attack aimed at interfering with their reporting. "Seeing as our website has been subjected to regular DDoS-attacks, we conclude this is the Russian bots' next attempt to undermine our work covering Russia's crimes in Ukraine," the editors said.
The Kharkiv media outlet GWARA MEDIA received an email from a supposed SBU employee asking them to file a request for information and provide a written response. There was a "Documents.zip" archive attached to the email. At the same time, the fact of mass mailing of letters with identical content was recorded by the Ukraine's State Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-UA), which the State Special Communications Service cites, recorded identical letters being mass mailed around the same time. Experts at CERT-UA note that such emails are part of a Russian hacker attack on the mobile operator Kyivstar.
On December 13, the Terebovlya newspaper "Volya", which had been in print since 1992, released their last printed issue. The editor-in-chief, Anatoliy Tkach, says that Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine was a difficult trial for the newspaper.
The freedom of speech violations for which Ukrainian citizens are responsible include instances of death threats, restricting access to information, cyber attacks and indirect pressure.
In December, the state-owned enterprise "International Multimedia Broadcasting Platform of Ukraine" and the editor-in-chief of "Kremenchutska Hazeta" (Poltava oblast), Oleh Bulashev, received death threats.
On December 13, the state-owned enterprise "International Multimedia Broadcasting Platform of Ukraine" received several anonymous phone calls. The caller threatened them with explosions on their premises, as well as in hotels and educational institutions in Kyiv. The threats were coming from an unknown man who made several calls to the broadcaster's official line. He also demanded to stop FreeDom TV's livestreams on YouTube. The media outlet contacted the police. The employees were evacuated from the potentially mined office. The police and the emergency services visited the site.
The editor-in-chief of "Kremenchutska Hazeta" (Poltava oblast), Oleh Bulashev, reported receiving death threats from an unknown man. According to him, he received calls from two numbers on December 6, the caller threatening physical violence upon him. “The caller advised me, I quote, to 'shut up', 'shut my mouth', 'stop acting', 'not write or speak nonsense', otherwise the man promised to 'drown me in concrete', 'tear me to pieces,'" Oleh Bulashev said in his comment to an IMI representative. The journalist believes that he is receiving death threats due to his legal reporting. Bulashev said that he was preparing a statement to the police with a demand to open a case regarding these death threats.
In December the IMI recorded four cases of journalists facing restrictions on access to public information. Such incidents happened in Khmelnytsky, Rivne, and Mykolaiv. The refusals were coming from the local authorities, state-owned and communal enterprises, and the media regulator.
The municipal road and highway management department of Rivne refused to share public information with Myroslava Prymak, journalist and analyst at "Chetverta Vlada", saying that her request did not have an electronic signature.
The National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting classified a request by the IMI representative in Khmenlytsky oblast, where she asked for information on the number of media outlets registered in the oblast, as an address in order to delay the deadline for responding.
The state-owned enterprise "Khmelnytsky Oblast Single Procuring Entity Service" refused to provide journalists of the local media outlet ZHAR.INFO with documents on reconstruction in Kherson oblast. In his reply, the administrator noted that access to the requested information was restricted due to a set of requirements. The editors have already prepared a complaint and plan to send it to the Verkhovna Rada Human Rights Commissioner as soon as possible.
The Mykolaiv Oblast Council barred "NikVesti" from attending an Oblast Council session. Such was the reply the media outlet's editors received after asking to take part in the Oblast Council meeting.
Moreover, the IMI recorded one case of indirect pressure and one case of online pressure. For instance, a fake "Ukrainian Pravda" page has appeared on Facebook and posts about supposed corruption in Yuzhnoukrainsk (Mykolaiv oblast).
In Kirovohrad oblast, Ukrposhta employees were dissuading potential readers from subscribing to the regional print newspaper "Nova Hazeta". According to Inna Tilnova, the editor of the newspaper, two such incidents happened in early December. "One of our readers was dissuaded from subscribing to 'Nova Hazeta' because he was told that it would no longer be printed in 2024. And it was at the main post office in Kropyvnytsky! While in Blahovishchensk, another reader was told that 'Nova Hazeta' was out of print, and thus out of stock. Although, as you understand, this is not the case at all, because we keep working and never planned to stop printing," said Tilnova.
Injuring journalists – 2
22.12.2023 Photographer and Ukrinform's "Kramatorsk Station" host, Vlada Liberova, was wounded near the front line in Donetsk oblast.
This was announced on Instagram by her husband, photographer and co-host of the above-mentioned program Kostyantyn Liberov, reports Ukrinform.
The video shows the injured Liberova discussing her injury with other people: namely the affected spot on her body. Kostyantyn himself noted in an Instagram story that "today is a second birthday for us all."
Later, Vlada Liberova reported that she was in the hospital, has taken all the examinations, the fragment is lodged in her soft tissues and is four centimeters large.
"We were driving towards Avdiivka and a Grad round went off over our car. Of all the possible scenarios, this is the best, because it could have been much worse. And, to be honest, I am very happy that everything ended the way it did," said Liberova.
She added that her husband will work without her for the time being, as she cannot move on her own.
The TV hosts regularly make trips to the front line and post photos on their social media.
As reported by IMI, on December 12, Ukrinform and the Center for Countering Disinformation under Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council launched a new project titled "Kramatorsk Station". It was hosted by a married couple of photographers – Kostyantyn Liberov and Vlada Liberova.
30.12.2023 A Ukrainian interpreter for the German TV channel ZDF was injured in the Russian shelling strike on Kharkiv on December 30. At the time of the explosion, the channel's team was in the Kharkiv Palace Hotel, which was hit by a Russian missile.
According to the ZDF, the channel's reporter Alica Jung, who was staying at the hotel, reported this.
She says that, at the moment of the attack, three employees of the channel were on the fifth floor, one was in the lobby, and another one was on the 11th floor. The interpreter was wounded in the hall: she broke a rib and three vertebrae. The journalist added that it was a miracle that everyone survived.
According to the hotel manager, a total of 15 rooms were given out, of which at least 10 were given to journalists.
The ZDF condemned the attack on the hotel where the journalists were staying. "This is another attack on the free press by Russia. We hope that our injured colleagues recover quickly. The ZDF will continue to report on the war against the Ukrainian civilian population," ZDF Editor-in-Chief Bettina Schausten said.
According to the IMI representative in the Kharkiv oblast, the victim has broken ribs and has already been taken to Kyiv.
As the IMI reported, on December 30 the Russians shelled Kharkiv city with rockets. The attack resulted in a British citizen working as a security advisor for a team of German journalists being injured.
The police opened a case for violation of the laws and customs of war (Part 1 of Article 438 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine).
The rocket strike on downtown Kharkiv also severely damaged the Radio House, where the offices of "Suspilne. Kharkiv" and Ukrainian Radio are located.
Death threats – 1
18.12.2023 The Dnipro online media outlet "Dnipro Operatyvny" received three messages claiming that explosives have been planted at their office.
The editor-in-chief Olesya Antoshkina reported this to the regional representative of the IMI.
According to her, messages about the alleged mining were sent to the editorial inbox on December 15, 16, and 17.
"We are tired of these messages. This time we called the police again, one time it was at night – we spent half the night on the phone to resolve it. This one was another false claim, but we can't not call the police," said Olesya Antoshkina.
The editor believes these messages have to do with the Russians.
IMI lawyer Roman Holovenko explains that such actions may fall under Part 1 of Article 345-1 of the Criminal Code: death threats, threatening violence, destruction or damage to property upon a journalist, their close relatives or family members due to their legal reporting. Such actions are punishable by up to two years of community service, arrest for up to six months, restriction of liberty for up to three years, or imprisonment for up to three years.
A report by the Dnipro City Council also says that there have been messages claiming some metro stations and several large shops in the city have been mined.
As reported by the IMI, "Dnipro Operatyvny" received several messages about explosives allegedly being planted at their office over the course of this year. For instance, such incidents happened on August 9 and May 21. However, the police found no explosives after examining the office.
Seizing, attacking, shelling media offices – 3
18.12.2023 Digital broadcasting in Nikopol, Dnipropetrovsk oblast, has been unavailable for over three months; the radio has been working intermittently, and newspapers have been out of print since the start of the full-scale war. The locals can only learn the news when Internet connection is available, reports the Hromadske Radio correspondent in Nikopol, Anna Tseluiko.
"T2 has not been working for us for over three months, there is no Ukrainian television in the city at all; Ukrainian radio only breaks through from time to time. People say that Russian raidowaves from the occupied territories, namely from Enerhodar in Zaporizhzhia oblast, even reach us, Russian radio... Newspapers have been out of print in the city since the beginning of the war as well, previously there used to be seven of them," said Tseluiko.
In her comment to the regional IMI representative, the representative of the National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting in the Dnipropetrovsk oblast, Olena Demchenko, noted that they are aware of the problem.
"There is an issue with broadcasting in Nikopol. The radio is more or less there, with television it is worse. Just this morning, a drone hit the tower again and dislodged three antennas," said Olena Demchenko.
We remind you that in October 2023, Suspilne Dnipro reported that digital television was unavailable in the city due to Russian shelling. According to Yevhen Yevtushenko, the head of the Nikopol District Military Administration, the Russians are targeting telecom equipment and firing at repair crews. Moreover, the Russian television signal reaches Nikopol.
Nikopol has been under daily fire throughout the full-scale invasion. On the night of December 18, Russian troops shelled Nikopol with artillery, reported Serhiy Lysak, head of the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast Military Administration, on Telegram. Accordning to Lysak, Nikopol was attacked three times on December 17.
Earlier, the IMI reported that on March 9, 2023, the office of the local radio station "Nostalgie" was destroyed by Russian artillery fire.
13.12.2023 The December 30 rocket strike on downtown Kharkiv severely damaged the Radio House, where the offices of "Suspilne. Kharkiv" and Ukrainian Radio are located, Suspilne reports.
The building's heating system was damaged; the windows, the doors, and the walls broke, says "Suspilne. Kharkiv" manager Yevhenia Kolienova.
"We made a room where journalists could work during blackouts, we just finished the renovation, we didn't even have time to furnish it. The glass in the room is broken, the ceiling is damaged. The heating system was damaged – we drained all the water out of the pipes because the batteries were torn out on the second floor. The water was pourin from the second floor to the first," she said.
According to her, staying in the room is now dangerous.
Office managers are recording the damage and passing the data to the police. At the moment of the attack, there was no one in the office except for a security guard, who managed to get to the bomb shelter in time.
As the IMI reported, on December 30 the Russians shelled Kharkiv city with rockets. The attack resulted in a British citizen working as a security advisor for a team of German journalists being injured.
The police opened a case for violation of the laws and customs of war (Part 1 of Article 438 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine).
30.12.2023 The Russian rocket strike on Kharkiv on December 30 resulted in the office of the media group "Objektiv", where the TRC "Simon" is based, being damaged, reports the media group on their website.
The windows in the building were broken, making a hole in the studio. The "Objektyv" newsroom, editing rooms and other offices of the company were damaged. Some equipment is also broken.
The office is located downtown. Since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion, after the first Russian missile strikes on the Freedom Square and the Kharkiv Oblast Military Administration in 2022, "Simon" has been off air.
Cyber attacks – 2
13.12.2023 Instagram has blocked the account of a Donetsk and Luhansk independent online media outlet "Skhidny Variant" over the last two months. The editorial team believes it's a Russian bot attack aimed at interfering with their reporting, as they reported on Facebook.
The account was blocked for “community guidelines violation”, but this time, the media outlet notes, they can not go and learn about the violation.
"Seeing as our website has been subjected to regular DDoS-attacks, we conclude this is the Russian bots' next attempt to undermine our work covering Russia's crimes in Ukraine," the editors said.
In her comment to the IMI representative in Donetsk oblast, the "Skhidny Variant" editor-in-chief, Anastasia Rudenko, added that the website's team was trying to restore the account.
“We are still waiting, because we only filed our appeal on Friday (December 8 – Ed.) thanks to our colleagues from the Center for Democracy and Law. But we decided to make a backup Instagram page, because this is the third block in two months,” Anastasia Rudenko commented.
22.12.2023 The Kharkiv media outlet GWARA MEDIA received an email from a supposed SBU employee asking them to file a request for information and provide a written response. There was a "Documents.zip" archive attached to the email, chief editor Serhiy Prokopenko told the IMI.
He also said that the team has not formally appealed to the police, but let them know about this.
At the same time, the fact of mass mailing of letters with identical content was recorded by the Ukraine's State Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-UA), which the State Special Communications Service cites, recorded identical letters being mass mailed around the same time. Experts at the CERT-UA note that such emails are part of a Russian hacker attack on the mobile operator Kyivstar.
"The CERT-UA recorded letters with the subject 'Request to the SBU' and an attached archive 'Documents.zip' being mass mailed. The letter contains a password-protected RAR archive 'Zapyt.rar' with the executable file 'Zapyt.exe'. Opening the archive and running the file, as in the previous case, damages the computer with the remote access software RemcosRAT," the message says.
CERT-UA experts note that the RemcosRAT control servers are located on on the technical site of the Malaysian hosting provider Shinjiru, which is typical for the hacker group UAC-0050, but also within the autonomous system AS44477.
CERT-UA experts once again recommend filtering emails with password-protected attachments (both archives and documents) at the mail gateway level.
This is not the first such attack by the UAC-0050, the SSCS notes. Recently, the cybercriminals have been mass mailing letters about "judicial claims" and "debts". Users from Ukraine and Poland have been targeted.
Blocking online access to media – 1
25.12.2023 The Roskomnadzor blocked a video uploaded to the YouTube channel of the Zaporizhzhia website inform.zp.ua back in 2019. The editors were notified by YouTube about their video being blocked in Russia on Monday, December 25.
The inform.zp.ua chief editor Eric Brynza reported this to the regional representative of the IMI.
According to him, they received the email from YouTube saying that the content depicted in the video "Urban explorers on a tower crane in Zaporizhzhia" (uploaded on May 5, 2019), is prohibited to Russian viewers and has therefore been blocked.
The minute-long video, which had had several views at the time, features a group of three men climbing a tower crane installed to build bridges over the Dnipro river in Zaporizhzhia, filming the process as well as the bird's-eye view. The background sound is exclusively music, there is no speech in the video.
The reasons behind the Roskomnadzor's decision are unknown. According to Eric Brynza, they have appealed to YouTube support to contest it.
As the IMI reported, in April 2022 the Roskomnadzor demanded that the Zaporizhzhia website Vmeste delete their reporting on Russia's war on Ukraine. That time the Roskomnadzor complained to the hosting owner – the German company Hetzner Online GmbH – demanding to disable the website if "the information distributed in violation of the law" is not taken down within 24 hours.
Media outlets closing down due to Russia's war on Ukraine – 1
25.12.2023 On December 13, the Terebovlya newspaper "Volya" (Terebovlya being a former district center in the Ternopil oblast. – Auth.), which has been in print since 1992, released their last printed issue.
The editor-in-chief, Anatoliy Tkach, announced this on the newspaper's Facebook page.
As the editor noted, the newspaper managed to survive the Covid restrictions period, but the situation predictably worsened after February 24, 2022.
"A new serious trial for Volya was the Russian horde's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The income from advertising, announcements, greetings dropped by almost 8–10 times. In order to sustain the newspaper, "Volya" scaled down from eight pages to four starting in the spring of 2022. Our employees' salaries hit a critically low level, the editorial expenses were reduced to a minimum. But we, same as everybody, lived for the hope that victory was not far away, and that with the victory, the normal life would be restored," wrote the Volya editor.
According to him, the Ukrposhta reform was the final nail in the coffin for the newspaper.
"Volya's print run dropped by almost 30% in the second half of 2023. And subscriptions were the team's primary source of income during wartime. In such a critical situation, starting October we had to switch to issuing the newspaper twice a month instead of four times. Desperate, the team did not announce the 2024 Volya subscription. The spark of light at the end of the tunnel has gone out," explained the editor-in-chief.
In the future, the media outlet will continue to report on the news in the community on its Facebook page.
THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH SITUATION IN UKRAINE FOR WHICH UKRAINIAN CITIZENS ARE RESPONSIBLE
Preclusion to legal reporting – 1
26.12.2023 Inna Tilnova, the editor of the Kirovohrad oblast print newspaper "Nova Hazeta", reported that some Ukrposhta employees have been dissuading potential readers from subscribing to the newspaper.
Tilnova shared this with the IMI representative in the Kirovohrad oblast.
According to her, two such incidents happened in early December.
"One of our readers was dissuaded from subscribing to 'Nova Hazeta' because he was told that it would no longer be printed in 2024. And it was at the main post office in Kropyvnytsky! While in Blahovishchensk, another reader was told that 'Nova Hazeta' was out of print, and thus out of stock. Although, as you understand, this is not the case at all, because we keep working and never planned to stop printing," said Tilnova.
In order to understand what happened, the editor called the regional director of Ukrposhta, Tetyana Kapustina, who assured her that she would deal with the situation. The Kirovohrad oblast head of post called the incidents in question the "human factor".
The IMI representative also tried to contact Tetyana Kapustina, but she did not answer the phone calls.
The "Nova Hazeta" editor Inna Tilnova thanked the readers for their concern, because it was thanks to them that she learned about such actions by Ukrposhta employees.
The IMI will continue to monitor the situation and any comment or official response by the Ukrposhta representative will be posted as soon as it arrives.
Death threats – 2
06.12.2023 The editor-in-chief of "Kremenchutska Hazeta" (Poltava oblast), Oleh Bulashev, reports receiving death threats from an unknown man.
In his comment to Nadiya Kucher, the IMI representative in Poltava oblast, he said that he had received calls from two numbers on December 6, with the caller threatening him with physical violence.
"At 8:50 p.m. I received a phone call from the number +38 073 529 04 67 and at 10:15 p.m. another one from the number +38 092 908 59 94; there were threats of physical violence. The caller advised me, I quote, to 'shut up', 'shut my mouth', 'stop acting', 'not write or speak nonsense', otherwise the man promised to 'drown me in concrete', 'tear me to pieces,'" Oleh Bulashev said in his comment to the IMI representative in Poltava.
The journalist added: He believes that he is receiving death threats due to his legal reporting. Bulashev said that he was preparing a statement to the police with a demand to open a case regarding these death threats.
As the IMI reported, "Kremenchutska Hazeta" (Poltava oblast) editor-in-chief, Oleh Bulashev, says that the anonymous website "Kremenchuk Today" continues to pressure him by posting offensive and discrediting content about his journalistic work.
13.12.2023 On December 13, the state-owned enterprise "International Multimedia Broadcasting Platform of Ukraine" received several anonymous phone calls. The caller threatened them with explosions on their premises, as well as in hotels and educational institutions in Kyiv.
This is reported on the website of the TV channel "Dom", which is part of the International Multimedia Broadcasting Platform.
The threats were coming from an unknown man who made several calls to the broadcaster's official line. He also demanded to stop FreeDom TV's livestreams on YouTube.
The media outlet contacted the police. The employees were evacuated from the potentially mined office. The police and the emergency services are working on the site.
As the broadcaster notes, the TV channels "Dom" and FreeDom are being streamed according to the program grid.
The media outlet recalled that previously FreeDom TV, which seeks to speak the truth about Russia's war on Ukraine and counteract Russian propaganda and targets the Russian-speaking audience outside of Ukraine, has repeatedly been attacked by Russian hackers.
As IMI reported, in July 2022, the Russians targeted the international broadcasting platform for several days in order to block the FreeDom telethon, which speaks in Russian. Also in July, the live broadcast of "FreeDom's" Russian-language marathon on YouTube was stopped due to mass complaints about copyright infringement.
The FreeDom telethon is a daily news project which is streamed in Russian and produced both by the State Enterprise "IMBPU" and by partner media groups: Media Group Ukraine, Starlight News, "Inter Media Group" and 1+1 Media.
The state channel for international television UATV has changed its name to FreeDom: it speaks in Russian and covers over 60 countries. "Dom" is the Russian-language broadcast of the channel that was started in 2020 for audiences in Ukraine's temporarily occupied territories.
CENSORSHIP, ACCESS TO INFORMATION
Access to information – 4
01.12.2023 On November 10, the IMI representative in Khmelnytsky oblast, Alyona Bereza, emailed an inquiry to the official inbox of the National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting, asking for the number of media outlets registered in Khmelnytsky oblast. Instead of considering the request within five business days, the media regulator classified it as an address in order to delay the deadline for responding.
The IMI representative learned this after speaking to an employee of the office on November 30.
The NCTRB office initially explained their decision by saying that the inquiry did not include a reference to the Law of Ukraine "On Access to Public Information". They further explained that the document was signed as an "inquiry" and not a "request for public information". However, the IMI representative notes, at the end of the conversation, the office did admit that they had misclassified the inquiry as an address, and undertook to provide the requested information by December 1.
"I was a little surprised to hear these explanations. During the entire conversation, I never once heard references to the requirements of the current legislation, which could give grounds to classify my inquiry as an address. At first, they tried banal explanations. Then I was asked to rewrite the inquiry to include citations to the current Law "On Access to Public Information". Then they sent me to write an inquiry through a form on their website. I then heard an attempt to explain their decision by the fact that the inquiry did not have my personal signature on it, although there is no such requirement for non-written requests. At the end of the conversation, the employee of the office admitted the mistake she had made and promised to provide an answer to the inquiry," said Alyona Bereza.
Roman Holovenko, a lawyer at the Institute of Mass Information, confirmed the frivolity of such a decision.
"The requested information itself does not need to be created (which is a hallmark of an address), it already exists, although it needs to be sorted out from a fairly significant amount of similar information. But in order to search for information from among a large amount of data, the manager could have legally extended the consideration period up to 20 business days," he explained.
Previously, the IMI reported that ZHAR.INFO journalists only managed to obtain public information from City Councils regarding the defense-related procurements after filing an appeal to the Verkhovna Rada Commissioner for Human Rights.
08.12.2023 The municipal road and highway management department of Rivne (the RMD. – Ed.) refused to share public information with Myroslava Prymak, journalist and analyst at "Chetverta Vlada". The refusal was justified by the fact that her request for access to public information did not have an electronic signature.
"Chetverta Vlada" editor-in-chief Volodymyr Torbich reported on the case on Facebook.
"The Law of Ukraine 'On Access to Public Information' has been in effect for 11 years now, and still in quarter million city we see people write nonsense about mandatory electronic signatures in requests," the editor-in-chief wrote.
Myroslava Prymak, journalist and analyst at "Chetverta Vlada" and head of the public initiative "For Fair Tenders", told IMI that she tried to learn who leases equipment from the Rivne RMD and whether they sign special equipment lease/service contracts.
"Of course, I was also asking about the pricing of such contracts. I wrote to them with a request for public information, which I sent from my e-mail as a citizen of Ukraine, a tax payer and a resident of Rivne," says Myroslava Prymak.
According to her, the SEU provided no reply to her request for a month, which prompted her to file a complaint with the Commissiner.
"Yesterday, on St. Nicholas Day, I received a paper letter with a refusal, signed by Oleksandr Cherukha, the head of the enterprise. The first argument for refusal is that my letter was not a request for public information, because what I was requesting was information that they did not possess. That the enterprise needed to run an entire analysis to give me an answer. And secondly, that I sent my letter without an electronic signature. I will add their reply to my complaint that I sent to the Commissioner a month ago," said Myroslava Prymak.
Roman Holovenko, a lawyer at the Institute of Mass Information, believes that the Rivne RMD's refusal is unlawful.
"An e-mailed request is not a written request, but an 'other' form of a request (Part 3 of Article 19 of the Law 'On Access to Public Information'), thus a signature is not required. In terms of hierarchy, the law is higher than the Procedure for working with electronic documents in record keeping," says Roman Holovenko.
Oleksandr Cherukha, CEO of the Rivne RMD, told IMI in a comment that the information was not provided because they needed a lot of time to prepare it. He says that the RMD lawyers can explain why the journalists were refused.
"That is, it was not easy to provide. It would have taken a full day or two to prepare it. We received an explanation and the information was prepared," says Oleksandr Cherukha.
When asked by an IMI representative whether he would facilitate sharing information with journalists, Cherukha said, "They will be receiving it, it is ready by now, as far as I know. They wrote to me yesterday."
13.12.2023 The state-owned enterprise "Khmelnytsky Oblast Single Procuring Entity Service" refused to provide journalists of the local media outlet ZHAR.INFO with documents on reconstruction in Kherson oblast. The editors decided to appeal the refusal and reported this to the IMI.
In his reply, the administrator noted that acess to the requested information was restricted due to a set of requirements.
As the editorial team notes, in November, the journalists pointed out 26 procurement deals related to reconstruction in Kherson oblast, which is being handled by the Khmelnytsky Oblast Military Administration as part of the presidential initiative. Information about these deals in the electronic procurement system was shared by the manager, SE "Khmelnytsky Oblast Single Procuring Entity Service", and it was the bare minimum: the standard name and serial number, the name of the contractor and the expected cost.
"All procurements were made under direct contracts, so the editors focused their attention on them and wanted to know the details. At first, the manager did not see our request, which was forwarded to him by the Khmelnytsky OMA. Then the editors sent the request to them directly and received a refusal in a few days," ZHAR.INFO reported.
In their reply, the Khmelnytsky Oblast Single Procuring Entity Service noted: "Since Vysokopillya is in the yellow zone with regards to the front line, there is a real risk for the safety of the contractors' workers involved in the ongoing repairs. Furthermore, disclosing information about the procurement may result in the settlement being shelled by the Russian Federation."
The media disagrees with the administrator's position and believes that the refusal was unlawful, since it is only certain information in the document, and not the entire document, that is classified. The latter's reply had to unclude a three-fold test and a justification for their stance, the editors believe.
Yevhen Vorobyov, a lawyer at the non-governmental organization "Human Rights Platform", noted that the manager of the information did not clearly state the reason for the refusal to provide the information.
"However, it seems that this would be Clause 2 of Art. 22 of the Law of Ukraine 'On Access to Public Information', with them deciding that the requested information was classified. If the manager of the information decided that the requested information was classified, he had to assess the information as stipulated in Part 2 of Article 6 of the Law of Ukraine 'On Access to Public Information,'" explained the lawyer who is helping the journalists appeal the refusal.
The editors have already prepared a complaint and plan to send it to the Verkhovna Rada Human Rights Commissioner as soon as possible.
As reported by the IMI, the Chorny Ostriv Village Council (Khmelnytsky oblast) provided ZHAR.INFO with information on the distribution of monetary aid to Hruzevytsya residents who were affected by Russian shelling on May 13, 2023, following the journalists' appeal to the Verkhovna Rada Human Rights Commissioner.
13.12.2023 The Mykolaiv Oblast Council barred "NikVesti" from the room where the chairman of the Oblast Council session scheduled for December 14 will be present.
Such is the reply the media outlet's editors received after asking to take part in the Oblast Council meeting, reports the IMI representative in Mykolaiv oblast.
The current regulations of the Mykolaiv Oblast Council, namely Article 74, stipulate that during remote plenary meetings, only the Oblast Council chairman, their deputy, the OMA chairman, employees of the Council's apparatus, and mass media representatives are present in the room. Other deputies take part in the meeting via video call.
However, the Oblast Council, which is currently headed by Anton Tabunshchyk, believes that participation is only possible remotely, as they have no means to "guarantee safe presence of media representatives."
"Considering that Ukraine is still at war and Mykolaiv city is in the zone of possible hostilities, and given the lack of a safe session hall for plenary meetings equipped with a proper bomb shelter, etc., the Mykolaiv Oblast Council has not means to guarantee safe presence of deputies, speakers, media representatives, invitees and other persons even during remote meetings. In this regard, the participation of deputies and other persons in the plenary session will be ensured exclusively via a video call," wrote the Mykolaiv Oblast Council.
At the same time, the Oblast Council promised to send journalists a link to join the video call and told them that the plenary session will be livestreamed on the official website of the Mykolaiv Oblast Council.
Roman Holovenko, a lawyer at the Institute of Mass Information, noted that the Oblast Council regulations do guarantee journalists the right to be present in the hall during a remote meeting.
"The work of journalists sometimes involves risks, some journalists even work on the front line. Therefore, the Council leadership's task in this situation was not to limit the physical presence of journalists, but only to warn them about the risks in advance. This could be done by making them sign a waiver. Also, the rule in the regulations about the right to be present in the hall during a meeting even though it is remote may be changed in the future. It can simply refer to the premises where the chairman and the Council staff are located, then it can be about any room in question," the lawyer noted.
Earlier, on December 11, the official website of the Mykolaiv Oblast Council posted the draft decisions of the next Oblast Council session and also reported that the Oblast Council chairman had convened it. But the order itself was not released. Kateryna Sereda, the IMI representative in Mykolaiv oblast, pointed this out on Facebook.
The next day, after the journalist's remark, the Oblast Council website posted the order and announced the date and format of the session, which was supposed to discuss personnel issues remotely.
Other instances of indirect pressure – 1
06.12.2023 The "Kremenchutska Hazeta" (Poltava oblast) editor-in-chief, Oleh Bulashev, says that the anonymous website "Kremenchuk Today" continues to pressure him by posting offensive and discrediting content about his journalistic activity.
The journalist reported this to the IMI representative in Poltava, Nadiya Kucher.
On December 4, the website "Kremenchuk Today" published an article by Natalia Boyko, titled "Zhevago's media promote Putin lovers in Kremenchuk: the goal is to discredit the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the city authorities".
The article says that "media outlets funded by the fugitive pro-Russian oligarch Zhevago are doing everything to discredit military aid. They bring local 'vatniks' to patriotic public events and actively promote them. For instance, 'Kremenchutska Hazeta' published a video featuring the famous Putin lover, Kremenchuk-based blogger Alla Kovalchuk," adding that the editor-in-chief of the newspaper, Bulashev, "also loves Putin", "publishes content defending the UOC of the Moscow Patriarchate", "has published data pointing to an important target in Kremenchuk during an air raid alert", "is promoting a confidant of the traitor Kyva".
"Bulashev has been actively promoting the 'Russian world' and its fans in Kremenchuk for a while. His task is to discredit the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the volunteer movement, and the city authorities. Because of this, Bulashev has been watched by the SBU's for a long time, but has evaded arrest thanks to his connections in law enforcement agencies," writes "Kremenchuk Today".
Oleh Bulashev denied the allegations in his comment to the Poltava representative of the IMI. The journalist is now considering filing a complaint with the police and suing.
"There is no one to sue. There have already been lawsuits against this website, and none of them yielded any result because there is no defendant," Bulashev said.
The cyberbullying campaign targeting Oleh Bulashev has been going on for several years. As reported by the IMI, in 2019, the editor-in-chief of "Kremenchutska Hazeta" reported being harassed on social media. In the summer of 2023, the local website "Kremenchuk Today" accused Bulashev of working for the enemy. Bulashev called the materials "false and nonsensical." So, on July 26, the website published the article "Why is pseudo-journalist Bulashev still not arrested for working for the enemy?" It alleges that Bulashev has "always been a supporter of the concept of the 'Russian world'" and "posts content in defense of the UOC of the Moscow Patriarchate. He is a freelance press secretary of Metropolitan Nikolay of the Kremenchuk Diocese of the UOC MP and has participated in the preparation of pro-Russian church publications."
The website also provides examples of Bulashev supposedly disclosing information about important targets in Kremenchuk. Among other accusations, they claim Bulashev was the press secretary of the "Party of Regions" for many years, and had the same position in the OPFL since 2014; that he ran the press center of Yanukovych's HQ in Kremenchuk during the 2004 and 2009 elections, and also worked at the Party of Regions/OPFL headquarters during elections to the Verkhovna Rada and the local council from 2006 to 2020. In his comment to the Poltava representative of the IMI, Oleh Bulashev called all the accusations brought up by the website completely delusional.
The IMI also reported that the confrontation between "Kremenchuk Today" and "Kremenchukska Hazeta" has been going on for a long time; there have been appeals to the Independent Media Council and the Mediacheck. The independent media examination indicated violations of the Ukrainian Journalist's Code of Ethics by both websites.
Other instances of online pressure – 1
20.12.2023 A fake page exploiting the "Ukrainian Pravda" brand has appeared on Facebook. The page hosts several links to the media outlet's reports and a post about supposed corruption in Yuzhnoukrainsk, reports the IMI representative in Mykolaiv oblast.
The page has the private account status and is called "Ukrainian Pravda"; it has a low-quality image of the media outlet's logo as its profile picture and cover. The "Information" section lists the Mykolaiv Center for Journalistic Investigations "NiKCenter" as the place of education and Kyiv as the place of residence. There page has seven "friend" accounts.
The first post on the page dates back to December 7, 2023. It was a link to a "Ukrainian Pravda" news item with a statement by US President Joe Biden. Three more similar posts with news from the media outlet were uploaded around the same time.
On December 10, the page published a post "In Yuzhnoukrainsk city, the city hospital's director and officials want to 'embezzle millions' of budget money through the hospital." The post discusses public procurement by the Yuzhnoukrainsk City Hospital and, on behalf of "Ukrainian Pravda", appeals to the head of the Oblast Military Administration, Vitaliy Kim, and the head of the Oblast Council with the demand to "pay urgent attention to this."
Note that the official Facebook page of "Ukrainian Pravda" has a verified account badge. This means that it has been properly authenticated by Meta. UP has 833,000 followers on Facebook.
As reported by IMI, in April 2023, a fake website mimicking the media oultet "Ukrainian Pravda" appeared online. Journalist Pavlo Kazarin noticed that the clone website hosted a column posted under his name. "Ukrainian Pravda" contacted the SBU to address this.
DEFENDING FREEDOM OF SPEECH
The authorities' response to freedom of speech violations – 6
01.12.2023 The Chorny Ostriv Village Council (Khmelnytsky oblast) provided ZHAR.INFO with information on the distribution of monetary aid to Hruzevytsya residents who were affected by Russian shelling on May 13, 2023, following the journalists' appeal to the Verkhovna Rada Human Rights Commissioner.
The media outlet's journalists shared this with the IMI.
"Back in the summer, we were collecting information for the project on helping residents of this affected village. We managed to release the material, but could not come to terms with the fact that we were not provided with this data. We contested the refusal to provide us with this information. At first, the Chorny Ostriv village council refused again. However, a few days later, an answer came with a detailed list of persons and the amount of monetary aid that was provided," ZHAR.INFO journalist Alyona Bereza said.
The editors contested the actions of the Khmelnytsky oblast administration in general, as in August, in response to their inquiry, they said that the requested information (namely the full names of the Hruzevytsia residents) was classified. However, in late October, after the complaint was sent, the administration's position somewhat changed. The Khmelnytsky OMA said in their response that they did not have the requested data on the Hruzevytsia residents who were affected by the Russian attack on 05/13/2023 and received aid, and the relevant sector of the administration only summarized the data received from other managers.
The journalists' complaint was processed at the oblast level. The official response of the Commissioner's representative stated that the oblast administration had re-examined the inquiry and stated the reason for refusing to provide information.
At the same time, the OMA noted in their response that it had redirected the editors' inquiry to the proper managers of information – namely, the Chorny Ostriv territorial community, which possessed this data.
Initially, the Chorny Ostriv territorial community, too, refused to provide the information. However, in a few days, the editors received a reply with a list of the Hruzevytsia residents and the monetary aid provided to them.
According to the editors, the fact that the documents were redirected in this situation played an important role, and the administrator who had the information decided to provide it to the journalists nevertheless.
11.12.2023 On October 5, 2023, the Mykolaiv Court of Appeal upheld the ruling of the first instance court, convicting Yevhen Bazulka, a teacher in a Mykolaiv school, of interfering with the work of Natalia Belova, a journalist for the local media outlet "Korabelov.Info", reports the IMI representative in Mykolaiv oblast, Kateryna Sereda.
The appellate court's decision entered into force on October 5 and may be appealed in the Supreme Court before January 10.
Nine years ago, during the 2014 presidential elections in Ukraine, Yevhen Bazulko, being a member of the election commission, interfered with the work of journalist Natalia Belova. At first, he threatened to break her camera, demanded to stop filming the voting. Then he stood up and deliberately shoved the journalist with his shoulder on the hand she was holding the camera with.
"Not stopping his illegal actions at that, PERSON_9 [hereinafter Yevhen Bazulko] entered into a verbal argument with the journalist and, wanting to prevent the process of video recording, began covering the camera's lens with his hand. After that, Yevhen Bazulko, not responding to the members of the election commission asking him to stop his illegal actions, continuing to act with the sole intention of hindering journalistic work, turned his back on the journalist and continued to prevent the latter from recording of the voting process on video," says the April 2023 ruling of the Korabelny district Court of Mykolaiv.
After that, Yevhen Bazulko grabbed a school bench from the floor and hit the journalist Natalia Belova on the legs.
Having reviewed the Korabelny District Court ruling, the Court of Appeal dismissed Yevhen Bazulko's complaint without satisfaction.
The court found Bazulko guilty of committing a criminal misdemeanor as per Part 1 of Article 171 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine ("Preclusion of legal professional activities of journalists") and fined him UAH 850. He was exempted from paying the fine due to the old age of the case. However, the court ruled to collect the examination expenses (UAH 14,000) from Yevhen Bazulka for the benefit of the state.
"Nine years passed between the shameful behavior of an election commission member (a school No. 48 teacher) in the 2014 voting and the court ruling convicting Yevhen Bazulka of a criminal misdemeanor – preclusion of journalistic work. Nine long years of struggle in anticipation, first of a professional investigation of the case by the police (it turned out to be very difficult!), then of a fair court ruling (three judges had to try it one by one). During these years, the world was continuously changing, the damned war brought a lot of grief to the country, and we might have as well written off the crazy Bazulko, who remained the same – lacking in honour, shame or a conscience. But the thought that I was not fighting for myself, but for the rights of all journalists, so that no fool dares interfere with the work of the mass media, gave me the strength to keep going," Natalia Belova commented on the court's ruling on Facebook.
In July 2014, IMI reported that the police had closed the case of interfering with a journalist on election day, not finding any corpus delicti in the incident.
According to Natalia Belova, the police opened the investigation three times, closing it every time due to the "lack of a corpus delicti," so she had to contact the attorney's office and the court about this.
However, the investigation was later reopened, and in 2017, only two and a half years after its opening, police investigators submitted a criminal case regarding the preclusion of professional journalistic work against a journalist for the Mykolaiv online media outlet "Korabelov.info", Natalia Belova, to court.
14.12.2023 The Volyn Court of Appeal upheld the judgement of the first instance court, which sentenced Pidhaytsi Village Council ex-official Heorhiy Stefanesa to 5,5 years in prison for assaulting the journalist Lyudmyla Yavorska and embezzling budget funds.
The judgement was issued on December 14, as the victim journalist Lyudmyla Yavorska told the IMI representative in Volyn oblast.
According to the journalist, Stefanesa asked in the court of appeal to cancel the first instance ruling by the Lutsk City District Court.
"Appeal hearings were ongoing since the summer, but Stefanesa did not attend them, he always brought papers saying that he was ill. It was only in December, that he started attending the hearings. Today was the final meeting, where the court passed the judgement. They dismissed Stefanesa's appeal and, accordingly, upheld the first instance ruling. That sentence was 5,5 years in prison plus compensation of about one million hryvnias to the Village Council," Lyudmyla Yavorska said.
"Actually, Stefanesa was only present at the last two meetings. I tried to ask why he was not arrested and escorted away right in the courtroom. I would like to see it. As far as I understand, the procedure says that this ruling will be passed on to the Lutsk City District Court in the future, and that court will contact the service which enforces the sentence. Stefanesa will most likely appeal to some other courts, but these will already be parallel proceedings. The ruling has already entered into force, and the penalty must be enforced," she added.
As the IMI reported, on April 19, 2023, the Lutsk City District Court (Volyn oblast) convicted the former Pidhaytsi village council official, Heorhiy Stefanesa, for embezzling budget funds and assaulting the journalist Lyudmyla Yavorska, sentencing him to five and a half years in prison.
On January 4, 2021, in the village of Pidhaytsi, Volyn oblast, the project manager of the Pidhaytsi village council, Heorhiy Stefanesa, threw his fists at the reporter Lyudmila Yavorska, who came to thePidhaytsi village council to get comments from the deputies regarding the road works on one of the streets, as well as to file an information access request.
18.12.2023 The Ternopil Oblast Military Administration only provided "Misto" journalist with information on the 2022–2023 income of the chair and his deputies after she appealed to the Verkhovna Rada Commissioner for Human Rights, reports the media outlet.
Previously, the journalist Yana Polukhina sent two requests about the salaries and bonuses received by the OMA management, but the replies she received only explained the calculation methods without specifying the sums.
At the same time, the OMA chair Volodymyr Trush made a comment at a briefing about his and his colleagues' salaries being "secret", equating them to military personnel.
"Considering that a full-scale invasion has been ongoing since February 24, 2022, and the military administration became subject to the General Staff of Ukraine, that is, Zaluzhny signs the staff list for us, for security reasons, all our employees are listed... the same as military personnel. Therefore, we do not have the right to disclose surnames, as they want us to do, with names..." Trush said at the time.
However, after the journalist submitted a complaint to the Human Rights Commissioner, the OMA provided the requested information.
"Within parliamentary control and with the assistance of the Commissioner's Secretariat, your requests for public information dated 17.10.2023 and 27.10.2023 were re-examined by the Ternopil OMA and granted by letter No. 06-11709/07 dated 11.12.2023 (copy attached). Thus, your right to information has been renewed", the journalist quotes the reply of the acting head of the Commissioner's secretariat, Ivan Verveiko.
Earlier, the media outlet "20 Khvylyn / RIA+" faced a similar situation asking about the salaries of the head of the Ternopil OMA and his deputies. The City Council refused to provide the data on the Council apparatus' salaries in order to "prevent property- or social status-based unrest."
20.12.2023 A court in Rivne arrested a local man aged 25 for two months on the suspicion of leaving a funeral wreath at the front door of journalist Vlad Isayev's apartment. This was reported by the Rivne Oblast National Police, the Rivne Oblast Attorney and Suspilne.
The trial was held on December 19. The suspect was born in Volyn oblast and has been living in Rivne for several years. The court ruled to detain him for 60 days with the possibility of being released on bail in the amount of 414 thousand hryvnias.
He is suspected of death threats and threats of violence to a journalist due to their legal reporting upon prior conspiracy by several persons (Part 2 of Article 28, Part 1 of Article 345-1 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine). According to the police, he was the perpetrator of the crime.
The law enforcers say that they spent several months identifying the persons involved and collecting the evidence. According to them, the crime was carefully planned and the criminals acted as conspirators. However, the police have identified and tracked the cars and traffic routes of potentially involved persons, their communication circle and mobile traffic.
"Hundreds of posts on social media and in Telegram channels were analyzed, 19 witnesses were questioned, about 10 authorized searches, several forensic examinations, as well as other investigative and procedural actions were carried out," the attorney's office notes.
A suspicion notice was sent to the man's mother on December 14, as he had been in hiding for a long time, but he came to the police office on December 18. The man is not helping the investigation and has not provided any evidence.
"Yesterday (December 18. – Ed.), after a suspicion notice was sent to his mother, the man came to the investigator. However, he refuses to provide any explanations on the basis of Art. 63 of the Constitution of Ukraine," said Svitlana Karachun, an expert at the police press office.
The victim, Vlad Isayev, commented to Suspilne: "The police are working, there have been some developments in my case. And that's nice. I hope that the person who ordered this wreath and set my car on fire will also be identified."
As for what may be the reason for the crimes, he does not comment yet.
Vlad Isayev positions himself as the editor of the news agency "Zakhidny Argument". As of July, the website was inactive, and the last post on the media outlet's Facebook page was dated September 21, 2021. At the same time, in his comment to "Chetverta Vlada", Isayev noted that the news agency's website was an auxiliary tool. In June 2023, an article by him appeared on the website "Rivne Vechirne".
As the IMI reported, on July 3, 2023, unknown persons in Rivne placed a funeral wreath at the front door of a news agency's chief editor, Vlad Isayev.
The police opened a case for death threats to a journalist in connection with his legal professional work, classified under part 1 of Article 345-1 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.
The funeral wreath incident was reported on Facebook by Isayev: "While our valiant police were looking for (or pretending to be looking for) the people who set my car on fire two weeks ago, this is the 'gift' I found at my door this morning as I went out for a run. The city's safe, you say? Are the 90s coming back?”
Earlier, on June 14, Isayev's car was set on fire. He believed this had to do with his reporting.
In his comment to IMI, Vlad Isayev noted that he was an editor at the news agency "Zakhidny Argument", although the agency no longer has a website. The last post the news agency's Facebook page was made back in 2021.
Isayev used to be a reporter for the newspaper "Rivne Vechirne", an editor for the website "Press Center", and the founder of the Telegram channel "Stierlitz", which posts revealing information about the government.
Back then, the police opened a case for deliberate damage to property by way of arson (Part 2 of Article 194 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine).
29.12.2023 The Ternopil City District Court (Ternopil oblast) canceled their decision to close the proceedings regarding the assault on "Espreso" journalist Maria Ivanovska, which happened in May 2023.
The ruling was issued on December 22, 2023, in response to the journalist's complaint, reports Espreso.
The journalist filed a complaint against the Ternopil District Police Department's investigator deciding to close the proceedings in the case of the attack on her, which occurred on May 8, 2023 in Ternopil.
According to Ivanovska, she learned about the police's decision to close the case from mass media as late as the end of November.
"The investigator did not send me the decision either to my work address or to my personal address, only texting it to me on Telegram after a week of inquiries and calls, which is not an official notification at all," said Maria Ivanovska.
The journalist noted that while the complaint was being reviewed it became clear that the attacker had given many false statements. She also stresses that the threats were made after she told him that she was a journalist.
Maria Ivanovska filed a complaint against the investigator's decision. Among other things, the complaint stated that "the pre-trial investigation body failed to properly assess the details established by the pre-trial investigation, confirmed by the evidence available in the case files."
The journalist's lawyer Maryna Haponiuk commented on the court's decision: "This means that the pre-trial investigation should be continued, the investigator should find out all the details of the case, take some investigative and procedural action, and, based on the results, make a decision according to the law. For example, it could be a suspicion notice…”
The decision entered into legal force from the moment of its announcement, is final and is not subject to appeal.
As the IMI reported, in May 2023, in Ternopil, a lodger of the Northern Commercial Court of Appeal judge, Lyudmila Kropyvna, assaulted the "Espreso" reporter, Maria Ivanovska, forcibly taking away her phone and threatening to beat her.
In November it was reported that the case on obstruction of the professional work of the "Espresso" reporter Maria Ivanovska in Ternopil has been closed due to the lack of corpus delicti. The case had been opened in 2023 under Part 1 of Article 117 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (preclusion to the legal professional work of journalists) and Part 4 of Article 186 of the CCU (robbery in wartime).
Response from the journalistic community – 1
01.12.2023 Ukrainian journalists and media organizations, members of the Media Movement, call on the authorities to identify those complicit in the media attack on "Media Detector" and bring them to justice, says the Media Movement association in their statement.
"The media attack on our colleagues began a few days ago as allegations that they paid a Russian subject for services to study Telegram channels. In reality, the Telegram channel research service TgStat.com has a free version that was used by the Institute of Mass Information to study Russian disinformation and fake news on Telegram. No money was paid to Russia-based subjects. The study by the IMI was subsequently reprinted by "Detector Media" in the Digest section," the statement reads.
The Media Movement says that they consider the widespread smear campaign involving many Telegram channels – such as "Monaco Battalion", "Good evening, we're from Ukraine", "Joker", "Trukha" and its regional network of channels – to be an act of revenge on "Detector Media" and the IMI for their criticism of anonymous Telegram channels with questionable content.
"The baseless accusations against the Ukrainian NGO and online media outlet of cooperating with the aggressor not only damage their reputation, but may also endanger the physical safety of the journalists working for "Detector Media" and the IMI, seeing as the anonymous Telegram channels are essentially egging their audience on to harrass them. For example, the "Monaco Battalion" published a "poll" offering the audience to choose a way to take revenge on the DM and the IMI, and some anonymous commentators suggest liquidating these organizations, burning down their offices, etc. Still, other commentators sided with the two organizations and accused the Telegram channel of slander," the statement reads.
The Media Movement calls on the police to take into account the gravity of the situation and respond to it. In particular, to identify the persons behind the spread of the listed disinformation in the specified Telegram channels and hold them accountable for interfering in the activities of "Detector Media" and the IMI. The data on the persons representing these Telegram channels, in particular "Trukha", has already been made public.
As the IMI reported, in October 2023, political consultant Volodymyr Petrov threatened Natalia Lyhachova, the "Detector Media" chief editor, with "punishment" which he will decide on himself.
The Media Movement is a community that has united journalists from leading Ukrainian media, investigative journalists and experts from independent media organizations. Media movement was launched on February 5, 2019. The first signatories of the Mediaruh memorandum were Suspilne, Ukrainian Radio, Hromadske Radio, Ukrinform, Interfax-Ukraine, Liga.net, ZN.ua, NV, Censor.net, Ukrayinska Pravda, and many others leading Ukrainian media. The movement also includes leading Ukrainian media NGOs, such as the IMI, Detector Media, Independent Media Council, Internews Ukraine, National Media Association, Center for Democracy and the Rule of Law, Suspilnist Foundation, Donetsk Institute of Information, Pylyp Orlyk Institute of Democracy, Zmina Center for Human Rights. Other organizations and journalsits joined later – over 70 members in total.
Lawusits by journalists – 1
21.12.2023 The Rivne District Court has opened proceedings in the lawsuit filed by "Chetverta Vlada" journalist Valeria Khomych against the National Agency for Corruption the Prevention due to their refusal to provide the information she requested, reports "Chetverta Vlada".
As the media outlet writes, the NACP failed three times to provide the requested information on who among the Rivne officials has submitted digital declarations. "Chetverta Vlada" wrote to the NACP in July, asking for information on whether the chair and deputy chairs of the Rivne OMA, the leadership of the Rivne oblast district administrations and the Rivne Oblast attorney's office, as well as the heads of the district attorney's offices in the oblast have submitted declarations for 2021 and 2022.
Journalists were refused twice. The NACP said that their decision was based on martial law. The refusals were signed by the head of communications and information policy, Olena Konoplya.
"Chetverta Vlada" appealed to the Verkhovna Rada Commissioner for Human Rights with regards to the violation of their right to information by the NACP officials. The Commissioner opened a case, but failed to draw up a report in five months.
In November, at a forum featuring the NACP head of communications and information policy, Olena Konoplya, a "Chetverta Vlada" journalist asked her whether the information about a district administration official submitting declarations for 2021 and 2022 was classified. Olena Konoplya replied that NACP stopped providing such information because people whose declarations the agency provided in response to such requests started filing lawsuits against them.
When the journalist noted that she was not asking for the declarations, but only for information on whether or not a official submitted one, Olena Konoplya said that she does not write the replies, but only signs them. She assured that she was "on the side of journalists and advocates for providing such information."
"When asked if she understood that we could also sue them for a wrongful refusal to provide information, she said: 'Well, meet you in court, then,'" writes "Chetverta Vlada".
Having received no reply to the previous requests or an adequate response from the Commissioner, the journalists wrote to NACP with a request for the third time and received another refusal. However, it was now signed by the head of document management and control, Lyudmyla Hermanchuk.
"That's why, with the help of lawyer Yevhen Vorobyov, we drew up a lawsuit and filed it with the Rivne District Administrative Court on December 6," the media outlet notes.
In the lawsuit, the journalists ask that the NACP's response be declared unlawful, the agency be ordered to provide journalist Valeria Khomych with the requested information, and that the NACP pays the court fee.
On December 8, the judge of the Rivne District Administrative Court, Olha Polishchuk, ruled to accept the statement of claim and opened proceedings in the administrative case.
On December 12, the NACP wrote back to the journalists. In addition to the list of officials who have submitted the declarations, they provided the declarations themselves, which had entered the public domain the previous week.
"But we will not withdraw the lawsuit, seeing as the NACP spent several months interfering with our journalist's work and, in our opinion, these officials should be punished so that this does not happen again," notes "Chetverta Vlada".
Human Rights Platform lawyer Yevhen Vorobyov noted that it is important for the court to declare the NACP's refusal to provide information unlawful.
"According to Article 171 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, a person can be prosecuted for unlawfully denying a journalist access to information. Thus, after the court rules that the refusal was unlawful, we can go to the police with a crime report. In fact, the court's judgement will help the investigator to bring the guilty parties to justice for not providing information to the journalist," he said.
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