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Ukrainian investigative outlet says it was surveilled for months after personal calls, video appear online

by Martin Fornusek January 16, 2024 8:13 PM 3 min read
Denys Bihus, the head of Bihus.info investigative outlet, addressing the wiretapping scandal in a video published on Jan. 16, 2024. (BIHUS.info/YouTube)
This audio is created with AI assistance

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

"We see and understand that the wiretapping and monitoring took very long – at least several months," Maksym Opanasenko, an editor of the investigative outlet, said in a comment for Hromadske.

The story comes 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.

A video that sparked the Bihus.Info scandal appeared on the Narodna Pravda website, which appears to pose as a news outlet, earlier on Jan. 16.

The video includes footage of a well-placed, hidden camera inside a Kyiv building where the party took place, as well as video recordings taken from the street and tapped phone calls, apparently documenting the purchase of the drugs.

Denys Bihus, the head of the outlet, addressed the incident on YouTube, saying that the employees in question were not journalists, as the description under the video claimed, but camera operators.

The staff members recorded on the video have been fired, Bihus noted. The message under the YouTube video also said that everyone who works with Bihus.Info will have to undergo drug tests.

Investigative Stories From Ukraine: Journalists allege that key state agency controlled by unofficial boss
Welcome to Investigative Stories from Ukraine, the Kyiv Independent’s newsletter that walks you through the most prominent investigations of the past week. If you are fond of in-depth journalism that exposes war crimes, corruption, and abuse of power across state organizations in Ukraine and beyond…

"Of course, the listening and surveillance were illegal, and the goals of those who recorded are clear. But this is no excuse for what we saw on the video, namely the use of prohibited substances by several of our colleagues," Bihus.Info's message on the YouTube channel read.

Speaking to Hromadske, Opanasenko said: "We have no evidence to say whether a person subordinate to the Office of the President or someone else was behind this."

Bihus.Info is known for its investigations into government and law enforcement officials.

Opanasenko added he could not rule out the possibility that this was an attempt to exert pressure against the outlet.

Talking to Babel, Opanasenko noted that some of the audio conversations leaked were months or even almost a year old.

In its statement on Telegram, Bihus.Info said that a day before the party, unknown people entered a building complex where the recording took place and installed surveillance cameras.

"Currently, we are trying to find out who is behind this attack and are considering the possibility of contacting the law enforcement officers with a statement about monitoring employees."

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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