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Court dismisses a lawsuit by an official suing a Chernivtsi journalist over Facebook posts

22.04.2024, 17:41

Journalist Svitlana Isachenko. Photo by Ihor Konstantyniuk

On May 1, the Chernivtsi District Court dismissed a lawsuit against Podillya Forestry Office director Vasyl Honchar, who sued journalist Svitlana Isachenko over three Facebook posts.

The judgement was made on April 9, 2024, according to the Unified State Register of Court Decisions.

"Systematic analysis showed that the plaintiff, as a state official, should have been open to severe criticism and close supervision by the public, and the limit of permissible criticism of such a person is much wider. The disputed information does not concern the plaintiff's private life, but his field of work, as confirmed by the defendant expressing interest in the plaintiff's person and his actions in office as a journalist," the ruling reads.

The court also concluded that the information reported by the defendant was not a statement of fact, but an value judgment reflecting subjective opinions based on personal perception of certain events and their assessment, and therefore the claim is not subject to satisfaction.

The judgement can be appealed within 30 days.

As the IMI reported, all three posts contested by Vasyl Honchar were made by the journalist in 2023. She wrote about issues in the forestry business.

In his statement of claim, Vasyl Honchar wrote that the journalist's posts were defamatory to his honor, dignity and business reputation. The head of the Podillya Forestry Office demanded that the reported statements be recognized as misleading, the journalist's Facebook posts be deleted, court fees be paid, and UAH 20,000 be reimbursed to his lawyer.

In the comment of the regional IMI representative, Svitlana Isachenko notes that the critical information about Vasyl Honchar reported in her posts was based on official reports about illegal logging.

"All my articles which so offended Vasyl Honchar are based on official reports from law enforcemers and the security department of the state-owned enterprise 'Forests of Ukraine'. I will not retract a single word in my materials and will keep asking the question: why official negligence gets you in prison for five years, but illegally logging tens of millions worth of forest gets you high positions and deputy mandates? I emphasize that I have been systematically covering the work of the forest industry since 2002," says Svitlana Isachenko.

She adds that the demands by the Podillya Forestry Office director to take down her posts containing constructive criticism are an attack on freedom of speech and on journalists' right to report and fulfill their professional and civic duties.

"The court rightly dismissed Honchar's claim. This is a victory for all journalists, all media workers who do their job honestly and bring true information to society," Svitlana Isachenko notes.

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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