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IMI's Maya Holub: The police once asked me if there was a unified register of journalists

18.03.2024, 12:08

Professional journalists find it difficult to prove that they are journalists when faced with obstruction of their work, said Maya Holub, the Institute of Mass Information representative in the Volyn oblast, during the conference "Wartime Citizen Journalism in Ukraine", which took place in Kyiv on March 15.

According to her, the police may ask a journalist for additional proof even if journalist has a certificate and many publications in the media.

"The police once asked me if there was a unified register of journalists, but there is none. Perhaps they thought that if there is a register of lawyers and a Unified Register of Court Rulings, then there should be a register of media workers as well," she said.

Maya Holub also raised the issue of journalists' physical safety and cyber security. She noted that media workers should have good protection on social media and in messenger apps. There have been repeated attempts to access her Facebook, Instagram and email inbox. The attempts failed due to strong account protection.

Yet, she noted that the most important part of a journalist's work is planning, both in terms of personal safety and the time required to prepare all the content.

"You need to assess all the risks and never visit the place if you are doing a journalistic experiment and don't want to be recognized. Sometimes it is better to depute some of the work to a colleague in order to get the information you need. It is also important to use secure messengers when preparing your report. You can also use a Faraday bag for important conversations to block off all signals or access to the phone and make wiretapping impossible," she said.

Volyn journalist Lyudmyla Yavorska, who was attacked while performing her professional tasks, has told the IMI that the police officers investigating her case asked her to show a register of journalists.

"The day after the incident the police summoned me for questioning and informed me that they had opened a case. The interrogation was a real shock, because instead of explaining the details of the event, they spent two hours asking me if I was a journalist. It was so absurd that they even asked to show them the register of journalists, where I would be officially listed. Obviously, such a register simply does not exist," said Lyudmyla Yavorska.

Yavorska was attacked by a then official of the Pidhaytsi Village Council (Volyn oblast), Heorhiy Stefanesa, on January 4, 2021. She had arrived to the Pidhaytsi 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.

On April 19, 2023, the Lutsk City District Court (Volyn oblast) convicted Heorhiy Stefanesa, sentencing him to five and a half years in prison. The Volyn Court of Appeal upheld the judgement of the first instance court.

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