Ukraine: Investigative journalists' team face surveillance and arson

A group of Ukrainian investigative journalists is being subjected to a campaign of harassment and intimidation, including surveillance and arson attacks. The International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ and EFJ) join their Ukrainian affiliate, the National Union of Journalists in Ukraine (NUJU), in urging the authorities to launch a thorough investigation into the intimidation and attacks aimed at muzzling their investigations.

The reamins of the car. Credits: MYKHAILO TKACH/FACEBOOK

The team's car belonging to the project's driver and which was used when filming, was set on fire during the night of Monday 17 August. Police found material similar to an explosive substance on the remains of the car.

Earlier this month, project leader Mykhailo Tkach had reported signs of surveillance in his apartment.

The "Schemes: Corruption in Details" journalism program, a joint project of Radio Svoboda and the Ukrainian Public Broadcaster, reports high-level corruption in Ukraine. The team was recently working on a piece Kings of the Road revealing how the transport of high-level state officials breaks traffic rules. During the production of the program, the journalists repeatedly voiced concerns about being under surveillance.

On 8 August, Tkach had informed police about finding evidence of surveillance measures in his home. Sources had warned him about instructions to monitor him. When police inspected his apartment, they discovered three holes in the shared attic above the apartment and one hole in the kitchen.

However, no surveillance equipment was found. The National Police filed a report for "violation of privacy." The President of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine (NUJU), Sergiy Tomilenko, called on the authorities to thoroughly investigate information about the possible wiretapping of the journalists.

The IFJ and EFJ submitted an alert condemning the situation to the Platform to promote the protection of journalism and safety of journalists of the Council of Europe.

NUJU president Sergiy Tomilenko said: "Verbal harassment from high-level officials, attempted wiretapping, arson have all been directed against the journalists. Pressure on a group of journalists who reveal corruption at senior levels is a media freedom emergency. This sets alarm bells ringing for every investigative journalist in the capital and all over Ukraine. We demand law enforcement  involve the best experts from the security services to investigate these cases."

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: "It is essential that investigative journalists can freely and critically report on corruption and wrongdoing of state officials. Surveillance and the attack against this team are worrisome blows against press freedom that can't go unpunishedWe stand in solidarity with the victimized journalists and call on the authorities to protect them from these attacks".

For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 146 countries

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