PEN Ukraine urges the Prosecutor General’s Office to stop pressure against journalists
To Prosecutor General of Ukraine
Attempts to put pressure on Natalia Sedletska, the editor-in-chief of the “Schemes: Corruption in Detail” investigation program and Kristina Berdinskikh journalist of the “Novoe Vremya” (New Time) edition, could become an exam for the current Ukrainian authorities to adhere to the principles of the Maidan.
It is the media as well as independent public organizations that are the indispensable institutions enabling the preservation and development of democracy in Ukraine. The emergence of new mass media in Ukraine after the Maidan, as well as the emergence of independent investigative journalism show positive changes in the Ukrainian information field.
However, circumstances around Natalia Sedletska and Kristina Berdinskikh have become a hazardous signal not only for our country, but also for the whole world, casting doubt on the indisputable value of freedom of expression in Ukraine today.
Worth reminding that N. Sedletska is a witness in a case about the possible disclosure of classified information and data of pre-trial investigation by the Director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau Artem Sytnyk.
On 27August, 2018, the Pechersk District Court of Kyiv, at the request of the Prosecutor General’s Office, granted permission to obtain information from the mobile provider of the telephone owned by the editor-in-chief of the “Schemes”, Natalia Sedletska. On 5 September, 2018, the court made a similar request regarding access to information of Kristina Berdinskikh’s telephone.
On 18 September, 2018, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) decided to apply Rule 39 of the Rules of Court – on urgent interim protective measures concerning the case of journalist Sedletska – and specified to the Government of Ukraine that it “should ensure that the authorities are kept away from access to any data given by the decision of the investigating judge of the Pechersk Court from 27 August, 2018 “.
We join the Ukrainian media who oppose the impediments to their professional activities and advocate for the right of journalists in all civilized countries not to disclose the sources of their information, and demand the Prosecutor General of Ukraine to respond to the judgement of the ECHR and answer the following questions:
1) Has the General Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine received from the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine the above-mentioned judgement of the ECHR dated 18 September, 2018 №42634/18?
2) What measures have been taken by the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine to comply with the requirements of the ECHR judgement? What steps are planned to be taken?
3) Has the investigator or prosecutor already received information from private JSC “Kyivstar”, in undertaking the decisions of the investigating judge of the Pechersk District Court dated 27 August, 2018 regarding the Sedletska and Berdinskikh telephone numbers? What information was received, in what volume? When (date)? Did private JSC “Kyivstar” provide information fully in accordance with the decision of the Pechersk Court at first, and subsequently in a more limited manner, according to the letter of the investigator to the mobile operator from 4 September, 2018?
4) Will the Prosecutor General’s Office use the ruling made by the Kyiv Court of Appeal from 18 September, 2018, which in limited scope, but still allowed access to the data of the telephone of the journalist Sedletska? Even though, this ruling also essentially contradicts the judgement of the ECHR?
5) In the case of receipt by the investigator or prosecutor in criminal proceedings No.42017000000003904 of 16 November, 2017 of information from private JST “Kyivstar” from the telephones of the journalist Natalia Sedletska and Kristina Berdinskikh, what measures are planned to be taken with this information to ensure the implementation of the ECHR’s judgement? Is it planned to destroy them in accordance with the law?
6) Has the General Inspectorate been instructed to conduct an official investigation into the actions of the investigator Izhuk R.B. and the prosecutor Zymohliada V. for further referral of a disciplinary complaint against the forementioned prosecutors to the Qualification and Disciplinary Commission of Prosecutors? If so, when and what is the result of such an official investigation (please provide a copy of the document about its purpose and results)?
The Ukrainian Centre of the International PEN-Club urges the Prosecutor General of Ukraine to publicly answer the questions posed by the Ukrainian media community, to stop any attempts of pressure and restriction of the rights of journalists in Ukraine, and unconditionally to comply with the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights.
20 September, 2018
Translation: Oksana Vasikovska