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Police opens a case over Bihus.Info surveillance (updated)

18.01.2024, 13:37

The National Police of Ukraine has opened a case following a statement by Bihus.Info journalist Maria Zemlyanska.

The deputy editor-in-chief of Bihus.Info, Alisa Yurchenko, reported this on Radio Liberty (the "Svoboda.Ranok" project).

According to her, the journalists are now waiting for additional proceedings to begin, since other members of the team have also filed their statements.

"The National Police has already opened a case following the statement by the journalist Maria Zemlyanska, who stayed in one of the bungalows (of the recreational complex. – Ed.) the interiors of which were featured in the video you saw. Maria just stayed there, she did nothing wrong. Many other members of our team have written statements to the police as well. Now one case has been initiated by the National Police," said Alisa Yurchenko.

She also said that the law enforcers have no qualms with the team members regarding the alleged drug use, which was recorded in the video "leaked" online. Moreover, she confirmed that those who were in the recreation complex have no status in the criminal case carried out by the Security Service of Ukraine. However, she stressed that the confiscation of CCTV camera recordings which belong to the recreation complex was the SBU's initiative, because journalists did not contact the department with any statements about a crime. According to Yurchenko, this is not the SBU's jurisdiction.

"They (Bihus.Info journalists – Ed.) don't have any status, they are not identified as victims in the case. We will address this, but it is important to understand that as the SBU took the video evidence for all the days when not yet identified persons had cameras installed in our rooms – at that moment the Security Service of Ukraine was acting of their own accord. They opened the case themselves, we did not contact the SBU, because the articles under which we filed our statements are not in the SBU's jurisdiction," the journalist said.

The deputy editor-in-chief also said that the journalists managed to find out that unknown persons rented out the same rooms as the journalists on the eve of their arrival at the recreation complex. Alisa Yurchenko believes that it was they who installed the cameras in the rooms. And the SBU now has the opportunity to identify these people, having extracted the video from the CCTV cameras in the recreation facility.

The Prosecutor General's Office later confirmed that a case has been opened following the journalist's statement regarding violation of privacy.

"A journalist from a media project contacted the police with a statement saying that unidentified persons illegally obtained and distributed private information about her. The previous day, a video featuring the victim, filmed by a hidden camera in a rented room in a countryside complex in the Kyiv oblast, was shared by the media," noted in the Prosecutor General's Office.

As the IMI reported, on January 16, 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.

The director of the Institute of Mass Information, Oksana Romaniuk, demands that the authorities address systematic pressure on journalists. She said this while commenting on the pressure on journalist Yuriy Nikolov, whose apartment suffered a break-in attempt by unknown men, and the Bihus.Info team.

On January 17, the Media Movement called on President Volodymyr Zelensky to resolutely condemn the pressure campaign on independent journalists and investigators and ensure that the crimes against the media are properly investigated.

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.

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