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Bihus.Info surveillance: SBI opens obstruction case

13.02.2024, 18:32

The State Bureau of Investigation has opened a case under Part 3 of Art. 171 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine – any form of influence on a journalist aimed at preventing them from fulfilling their professional duties and committed through abuse of office, reports the press office of the Prosecutor General.

They note that the law enforcers have discovered new details that may indicate obstruction of the legal professional journalist activity.

"Bihus.Info journalists were under illegal surveillance at a recreation complex. The collected information could be used to further influence them," the Prosecutor General's Office reported.

They added that procedural and investigative actions are currently underway to identify the persons involved.

As the IMI reported, on February 5, the head of the investigative journalism project "Bihus.Info", Denys Bihus, said that his team was being surveilled by the Security Service of Ukraine and the SBU's National Statehood Protection Department was behind the operation.

In response, the SBU stated that they were investigating cases on drug trafficking and the illegal use of surveillance equipment. "According to the information available to the SBU, some Bihus.Info team members, unfortunately, were also clients to drug dealers supplying narcotic substances to other citizens," the special service noted.

On February 6, the head of the SBU, Vasyl Maliuk, said that he was outraged by the actions of the Statehood Protection Department employees who were spying on the Bihus.Info journalists.

On February 6, the Verkhovna Rada summoned the SBU head Vasyl Maliuk to report to the parliament following the news that secret service officers were spying on the team.

On February 7, 2024, the Head of the Security Service of Ukraine, Vasyl Maliuk, discussed the Bihus.Info situation with G7 ambassadors. The SBU initiated the meeting.

How it started

On January 16, 2024, the head of the Bihus.Info project, Denys Bihus, recorded a statement in response to a provocative video shared on YouTube by the website "Narodna Pravda", wherein his employees negotiate the purchase of drugs and use them, and reported unlawful surveillance and wiretapping. He also announced staff changes.

The phones of the Bihus.Info team were wiretapped for several months, according to Denys Bihus's second video address. He says that the leaked phone conversation recordings point to this. These conversations happened some time apart.

On January 17, the Security Service of Ukraine opened a case over unlawful wiretapping and video surveillance of Bihus.Info employees. On the same day, SBU officers searched at the suburban complex where the Bihus.Info team members were illegally recorded on video. The law enforcers confiscated the hard drives with CCTV footage. On January 18, it was reported that the Kyiv Oblast National Police HQ had opened a pre-trial investigation into the violation of privacy following a statement by Bihus.Info journalist Maria Zemlyanska. The National Police is investigating four cases related to surveillance of Bihus.Info journalists.

The team performed their own investigation, and Denys Bihus reported that at least 30 people were involved in the surveillance operation targeting the team. The surveillance cameras were installed in the rooms where the project's employees, mostly women, stayed. Other guests at the hotel were also under unauthorized surveillance.

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