Sunday, December 4, 2022

Supreme Court rejects prosecutor general's libel suit against newspaper, anti-graft watchdog

by Oleg SukhovDecember 22, 2021 9:40 pm
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Iryna Venediktova the General Prosecutor of Ukraine is seen during a meeting in Mariupol on June 24, 2020. (don.gp.gov.ua)

The Supreme Court threw out a Hr 150,000 ($5,500) libel lawsuit filed by Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova against online newspaper Ukrainska Pravda and the Anti-Corruption Action Center, Ukrainska Pravda reported on Dec. 21, citing the ruling.  

Kyiv’s Pechersk District Court and the Kyiv Court of Appeal had sided with Venediktova but the Supreme Court overturned their decisions. 

The Supreme Court cited the European Court of Human Rights and argued that the limits on criticism of publicly exposed persons are much broader than for ordinary people. 

"The Supreme Court fully agreed with our arguments,” said Ukrainska Pravda’s lawyer, Oleksandr Lytvyn. “The information is in the public interest and is an evaluation. We did not claim that Venediktova committed any crime, as her lawyer wrote. Also, the head of the prosecutor’s office had no right to claim compensation for non-pecuniary damages.” 

Venediktova sued Ukrainska Pravda and the anti-corruption watchdog in 2020, demanding they retract information in an article about the growing influence of then-Interior Minister Arsen Avakov. Experts from the Anti-Corruption Action Center wrote the article and Ukrainska Pravda published it.  

Specifically, Venediktova referred to the statement that her husband, police official Denys Kolesnyk, influenced the State Investigation Bureau’s human resource policy when she headed the bureau in 2019-2020. Ukrainska Pravda reported that Venediktova had appointed Ruslan Biryukov as an adviser due to Kolesnyk’s influence.

This is not the only recent clash between Venediktova and independent media. 

Brian Bonner, the ex-chief editor of the Kyiv Post, told the Ukrainian Weekly in November that after the Kyiv Post ran a critical story about Venediktova in 2020, he was invited to her office where he faced “pressure.” Venediktova had also threatened the Kyiv Post with a lawsuit. 

The Kyiv Post ran another critical article about Venediktova on Sept. 3, after which Bonner said she opened criminal cases against the newspaper’s owner, Odesa tycoon Adnan Kivan. The cases were later closed, he said.

Kivan shut down the Kyiv Post and fired all of its staff on Nov. 8. The newspaper was re-launched a month later but not a single member of the former editorial team joined the renewed Kyiv Post. 

In response, Venediktova stated that she never pressured anybody or even met Kivan, who has also denied allegations of pressure. 

The former editorial team of the Kyiv Post launched the Kyiv Independent on Nov. 11.

Oleg Sukhov
Oleg Sukhov
Political reporter

Oleg Sukhov is a political reporter at the Kyiv Independent. He is a former editor and reporter at the Moscow Times. He has a master's degree in history from the Moscow State University. He moved to Ukraine in 2014 due to the crackdown on independent media in Russia and covered war, corruption, reforms and law enforcement for the Kyiv Post.

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