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Bukovyna's head forester sues Chernivtsi journalist over a Facebook post

20.03.2024, 12:03

Journalist Svitlana Isachenko. Photo by Ihor Konstantyniuk

Podillya Forestry Office director Vasyl Honchar, is suing Chernivtsi journalist Svitlana Isachenko over three Facebook posts, according to the Unified State Register of Court Rulings.

All three posts contested by Vasyl Honchar were made by the journalist in 2023. She wrote about issues in the forestry business.

Two of her Facebook posts were reposted by the resource "Open Forest": "Why haven't the head of the state-owned company 'Lisy Ukrainy', Yury Bolokhovets, and the director of the Podillya Forestry Office, Chernivtsi Oblast Council deputy, Vasyl Honchar, been brought to justice yet?" and "Under Vasyl Honchar's leadership, the Bukovyna forest reform has gone off the rails."

In the lawsuit, Honchar demands that Svitlana Isachenko's statements be recognized as misleading, her Facebook posts be deleted, court fees be paid, and UAH 20,000 be reimbursed to his lawyer.

In her comment to the regional IMI representative, Svitlana Isachenko notes that the statement of claim filed by the head of the Podillya Forestry Office demands that the statements in her articles about the glaring problems in the Chernivtsi oblast forestry be recognized as misleading and defamatory.

"That is, in the field where it's his job to ensure the control over and efficient use of the state's forest resource. Yet, the official information from the police and from the security department of the state-owned company 'Lisy Ukrainy' which Honchar works for, featured in my articles contested by the plaintiff, testifies to repeated crimes related to timber embezzlement in the oblast's forest sector," says the journalist.

Svitlana Isachenko adds that in her articles she does not just list the facts related to the crimes, but suggests that it is not only the low-ranking forestry workers that should be responsible for them, but first of all the officials of the specialized enterprise 'Lisy Ukrainy', namely the Podillya Forestry Office.

She also said that she had not been aware of the lawsuit for several months, because the plaintiff listed the wrong address and the wrong phone number.

"I am convinced that the plaintiff deliberately did everything in his power to make me miss the deadline for filing a response to the statement of claim. I have official confirmation that it was because of the plaintiff mislisting my address and mobile phone that I did not receive the statement of claim at all, which was in court on November 23, 2023. Neither was I notified of the date of the preparatory hearing in the case. I learned about the trial from the ruling to close the preparatory proceedings, which was sent to my e-mail address on February 19, and from the appointment of the hearing on the merits. This was a violation of my rights in terms of preparing for the trial, presenting evidence and calling witnesses," said Svitlana Isachenko.

The journalist views Honchar's lawsuit as pressure on her professional work and an attempt to silence her: "It won't work! Regardless of the court's judgement, I will continue to highlight the problematic issues of the forestry industry and assess the work of its managers based on evidence."

The trial in this case takes place today, March 20, in the Pershotravnevyi District Court of Chernivtsi.

Svitlana Isachenko is a journalist and investigator who has worked in "Dzerkalo Tyzhnia", "Uryadovyi Courier" and whose articles are still being published in the national media.

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