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Investigation of alleged SBU pressure on journalist stalled, revealing long-standing tendency, lawyer says

by Nate Ostiller and Dinara Khalilova July 4, 2024 3:53 PM 2 min read
Operatives from the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) on March 24, 2017. Photo for illustrative purposes. (Presidential Office)
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There has been little progress in an almost three-month investigation into alleged pressure on a journalist by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) in response to a perceived unfavorable story, Slidstvo.Info's chief editor Anastasiia Stanko told the Kyiv Independent in an article published on July 4.

There have been several high-profile cases of alleged government intimidation, pressure, and attempted censorship of journalists in recent months.

Despite public pressure and condemnation from as high up as President Volodymyr Zelensky, the investigations have yet to lead to any tangible results.

In the case in question, Yevhenii Shulhat, a Slidstvo.Info journalist, received a draft notice at the suggestion of an SBU employee, which was apparently in retaliation to a story that Shulhat was working on.  

Shulhat's piece, which came out after the draft notice was served, alleged that the wife of the former head of the SBU's cybersecurity unit, Illia Vitiuk, had earned large sums of money after he got the job.

While Vitiuk was fired in the ensuing scandal, and the State Bureau of Investigation launched an inquiry, Stanko said that the case does not mention Vitiuk, either as a suspect or witness. Other key individuals involved in the case have not been questioned more than two months after the investigation began.

The bureau has not responded to the Kyiv Independent's request for comment.

Oksana Maksymeniuk, head of the legal department at Ukraine's Institute for the Development of the Regional Press and a lawyer working on the case, told the Kyiv Independent that the delaying of cases involving pressure or intimidation of journalists has been a consistent practice.

"The longer a case is in pre-trial investigation, the more likely there will be no effective methods of prosecution," said Maksymeniuk.

The end result can be that cases will exceed their statute of limitations, allowing alleged offenders to evade punishment, she said.

Maksymeniuk added that only six of the 19 cases involving obstructing the work of prominent Ukrainian media outlets her department has worked with since 2015 have gone to court.

Recent campaigns against journalists raise concerns about press freedom in Ukraine
Investigative journalists in Ukraine came under two attacks in just the past week, one involving a threatening home visit and another using covert surveillance. The two incidents are the latest in a series of discrediting campaigns against independent Ukrainian media, often supported by anonymous p…

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