The U.S. and President Volodymyr Zelensky have the same position on media freedom, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink said in Kyiv on Feb. 9 in response to a question about a recent surveillance scandal surrounding the investigative outlet Bihus.Info.
News that the Bihus.Info team had been under surveillance first emerged on Jan. 16, when a video appeared online showing some staff members of the team apparently using drugs during a private party, filmed from well-placed, hidden cameras.
Bihus.Info then released an investigation on Feb. 5 that found it was the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) that had conducted the surveillance operation of the outlet.
Following the release of the investigation, President Zelensky on Jan. 31. dismissed the head of the SBU's Department for Protection of National Statehood, Roman Semenchenko.
The department was found by Bihus.Info to have been responsible for the surveillance of the outlet.
"President Zelensky was very clear on this in the last few days, and he made a statement in support of press freedom. We very much support that here as a democratic value that is very important for Ukraine to achieve its goals of integration into Europe and NATO," Brink said in a reponse to a question by the Kyiv Independent.
"Our position is the same as President Zelensky's in support of media freedom," she said.
Ambassador Brink was present at a news conference together with four members of the U.S. House of Representatives during their visit to Kyiv on Feb. 9.
Two days after the news broke that Bihus.Info had been under surveillance, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Jan. 17 that “any pressure on journalists is unacceptable.”
The outlet said its employees had been under surveillance for months and announced they would investigate who was spying on its team. The SBU also said it opened a criminal case into the illegal surveillance.
The Prosecutor General's Office then announced on Feb. 6 that the SBU would no longer conduct the investigation, which would be transferred to the State Bureau of Investigation.