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Media: Organization that shared personal videos, calls of Ukrainian investigative outlet likely fake

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk January 17, 2024 7:58 PM 2 min read
Denys Bihus, the head of Bihus.info investigative outlet, addressing the surveillance scandal in a video published on Jan. 16, 2024. (BIHUS.info/YouTube)
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An investigation into the news organization that shared personal videos and tapped phone calls of employees of the Ukrainian investigative outlet Bihus.Info found that the supposed organization is likely fake, the Svidomi news outlet reported on Jan. 17.

Bihus.info announced on Jan. 16 that its employees had been under surveillance for months after a video appeared online showing some staff members of the outlet using drugs during a New Year's private party.

The video included footage of a well-placed, hidden camera inside a building where the party took place, as well as video recordings taken from the street and tapped phone calls, where the staff members discuss purchasing drugs.

The footage was shared by a supposed "investigative news organization" called Narodna Pravda. Svidomi's investigation into Narodna Pravda found no evidence of its actual existence.

There is no information about its staff members, and Svidomi said the individuals and their respective biographies, including the places they previously worked, may have been created by AI.

A further investigation using facial recognition technology to analyze photos of the supposed staff also yielded no results. There are also irregularities with the photos themselves, causing Svidomi to question if the photos were also created with AI.

Lawmaker Yaroslav Yurchyshyn said on Jan. 17 that Ukraine's parliamentary committee on freedom of speech is investigating the matter.

It was "definitely" a case of obstruction and pressure against journalists, he added.

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) also said it had begun an investigation into the incident and had started criminal proceedings.

The news came only a day after Yurii Nikolov, a prominent journalist known for his investigation into defense procurement corruption scandals, said he had received a threatening visit to his home by unknown men.

Ukraine’s prominent investigative journalist Nikolov says he faced threatening home visit
Yurii Nikolov, one of Ukraine’s prominent investigative journalists who revealed procurement wrongdoing in the Defense Ministry under its previous leadership, said on Jan. 15 that he received a visit from unidentified people threatening him.

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