IFJ Condemns Attack on Journalists’ Secrecy Rights in Ukraine

The International Federation of Journalists today condemned the Ukrainian Parliament’s decision to outlaw the protection of sources of journalists as “one of the greatest threats on press freedom in the post-soviet era.”

On 9 July, the Ukrainian Parliament adopted a law, which will detain journalists suspected of revealing State secrets. This law which changes certain aspects of existing Ukrainian law, will give excessive levels of power to the Ukrainian secret service, whereby they can investigate the ‘illegal’ use of special technical means (recording telephone conversations, use of information technologies, etc.) to obtain information from anonymous sources.

“This is a return to a style of the past”, said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “There must always be a public interest test before law against media is put into effect.” The IFJ hopes that the Press Law, which was adopted in May and states that no one can be punished for imparting information with limited access if it was of public interest is upheld, as well as the endorsement of the Constitutional freedom of speech guarantee (as stated article 10 of European Convention).

The IFJ is proposing to take its protest over the Ukrainian action to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Vienna as well as with the General Affairs Council of the European Union.

The IFJ says that the protection of journalists’ sources is a cornerstone of the watchdog function of media in a democracy and is calling on the EU to protest vigorously against the Parliament’s decision. “We know that this action against media contravenes the partnership and cooperation deal between the EU and Kiev, and it must not be allowed to stand”, said White.

According to reports, “now print media only has the right to seeking, obtaining, fixing, using and/or imparting data which is classified as general public information.” During the course of yesterday’s proceedings, the Ukrainian Parliament issued the following official statement:

    This law gives special rights to staff of the Ukrainian secret service to arrest journalists who have been investigating issues related to state secrets and who intend to publish this information. Subsequently, the secret service is authorized to demand a written statement from the journalist explaining the reasons behind this violation of state secrets and confidential information. The secret service is also permitted to carry out a body search and a search of their personal belongings.
The law also proposes to fine journalists who have been arrested for seeking, obtaining, fixing, using and/or imparting information by technical means. The fine would be in the range of 50 to 300 times the monthly salary for the journalist in question and 200 to 500 times the monthly salary for the official source.

The IFJ is supporting journalists in the Ukraine to create better social and professional conditions and carried out a mission to the country in April this year. Among the recommendation was that the authorities should bring to a conclusion the long-running inquiry into the killing of investigative journalist Gyorgy Gongadze in 2000.

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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries