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Tkach detained in Poland: UP team begins working with a Polish lawyer

29.02.2024, 11:05

"Ukrainian Pravda" has contacted a Polish lawyer following the detention of investigator Mykhailo Tkach by the Polish police near the border. Tkach plans to release the report on Poland–Belarus transit which he was filming on the day of his detention despite the incident, according to the editorial team's statement.

"The recent statements by the Polish police look like attempts to shift the blame onto the Ukrainian Pravda journalists. None of them in any way justify the unlawful detention of our colleagues or searching them. The editors have taken the first legal steps by working with a Polish lawyer. For our part, we would like to note that we plan to release the report on the transit between Poland and Belarus despite these circumstances," the UP writes.

The statement emphasizes that the editors understand the importance of observing security regulations and identification procedures in the border area and respect the work of the law enforcement of Poland, Ukraine's neighbor and a friend.

"However, we ask the Polish police to observe the due process required by the national law.

"The Polish police's actions regarding the head of the Ukrainian Pravda investigative journalism department, Mykhailo Tkach, and the videographer Yaroslav Bondarenko on February 27 were not aimed to control and secure the border area and have signs of obstruction of a journalist's work, interference, and non-compliance with the due process for controlling a person," they stress.

They remark that the Polish police detained the UP filming crew (head of journalist investigations Mykhailo Tkach and videographer Yaroslav Bondarenko) on February 27. The journalists were filming a story about the transit of good between Poland and Russia, Belarus.

"While having the journalists detained, the Polish policemen searched their car, seized the memory cards from their cameras along with all the phones and documents. The UP journalist and cameraman were brought to a police headquarters in Luków (Lukiv), where they were kept for at least four hours. Our employees were interrogated by police officers as well as representatives of the Polish special services. They were not allowed to contact anyone during this time," writes UP.

According to the media, Tkach and Bondarenko repeatedly asked the police to let them call a lawyer in Ukraine or to allow them to use the services of a lawyer in Poland.

"During the interrogation, the police officers threatened to arrest our colleagues for 14 days and put them in handcuffs. After the questioning, the memory cards were given back to Mykhailo and Yaroslav. However, it turned out that some of the filmed content had been deleted from them. The battery charger was also damaged. The cameraman, Yaroslav Bondarenko, was forced to sign a document in Polish that he did not understand. A day after the incident with our journalists, the Polish law enforcers were still unable to explain the reasons and grounds for the detention," the media outlet emphasizes.

The editors point out that the Polish police version of the events is constantly changing: from the initial one (that no one was detained and "it's all fake news") to the attempts to paint the detention as a language barrier issue and explain it with the need to identify the journalsits and check their documents.

"We are also seeing manipulation on the part of the Polish police, who claim that our colleagues were filming the railway infrastructure (this is untrue, and the law enforcers could confirm this by watching the video) and had no permit to work in Poland. We believe that the police were trying to to censor journalistic work, to cause a 'chilling effect' on the Ukrainian journalists working in Poland," the UP added.

The media outlet also stresses that the Polish authorities committed unlawful actions by detaining the Ukrainian journalists with no legal sanction and in violation of basic human rights.

"An identity check cannot last four hours – as has been ruled by Polish courts. The Polish police did not inform the journalists about the check as required by due process, they did not give their names, surnames and ranks, did not show their IDs, did not invite an interpreter, did not issue a document on detention where a way to contest the actions of the law enforcers would be described," explains the UP.

Mykhailo Tkach detained in Poland

On February 27, 2024, the Polish police detained Mykhailo Tkach and his cameraman near the Poland–Belarus border as the journalist was filming a report on the transit of goods between Poland and Russia, Belarus. Some of the footage was deleted by the Polish law enforcers.

According to Tkach, during the interrogation at the commandant's office, he said that he was a journalist and that his team was filming Poland's trade with Russia through Belarus and Poland's trade with Belarus, the agricultural products going from Russia and Belarus to Poland.

"It was obvious that the representatives of the Polish special service were scared. They started asking me who else knew about it, whether the Ukrainian authorities, the Ukrainian government knew about it. They asked who our sources were, how we found out about it, how long we have been working on this topic," the journalist said.

On February 28, following the news of Ukrainian Pravda journalist Mykhailo Tkach and his cameraman being detained at the Poland–Belarus border, the Polish Lublin police confirmed carrying out "identification activities" near the border the day before.

The international human rights organization "Reporters Without Borders" condemned the obstruction of the work of "Ukrainian Pravda" journalist Mykhailo Tkach and cameraman Yaroslav Bondarenko by the Polish police.

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