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Justice minister calls for tighter oversight over security services in wake of Bihus.Info surveillance scandal

by Martin Fornusek and The Kyiv Independent news desk February 6, 2024 10:52 AM 2 min read
Ukraine's Justice Minister Denys Maliuska addresses journalists at the end of a meeting of the G7 Justice Ministers on Nov. 29, 2022, in Berlin. (John Macdougall/AFP via Getty Images)
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The Ukrainian government needs closer oversight over the actions of security services within the country, Justice Minister Denys Maliuska said on Feb. 6 after the Bihus.Info investigative outlet said it had been surveilled by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU).

Bihus.Info accused the SBU on Feb. 5 of long-term illegal surveillance of the outlet's team, after which a video appeared online showing some staff members allegedly using drugs during a private party.

Speaking with Bihus.info, the recently dismissed head of an allegedly involved SBU department did not deny his involvement in the operation. The SBU issued an official comment later the same day, saying it is continuing its investigation into the surveillance.

Maliuska said he is "proud of the quality of the journalists' investigations" and "ashamed of the 'work' of the security services.'"

The minister noted that the oversight over the SBU is executed by the parliament, the Presidential Office, and the Prosecutor General's Office.

"The president took the first step earlier by dismissing the head of the department (implicated in the surveillance). I think prompt response and communication from ALL branches is needed," he said.

The SBU opened a criminal case into illegal surveillance, and the National Police launched proceedings over the violation of privacy of a Bihus.info journalist.

President Volodymyr Zelensky dismissed the head of the implicated department, Roman Semenchenko, on Jan. 31. Soon after, the SBU said that this department would be "strengthened and optimized," including in order "to guarantee the unimpeded work and safety of journalists."

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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