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Andrii Yermak, Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, at Munich Security Conference 2024 on February 17, 2024. (Olena Zashko / The Kyiv Independent)
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Andriy Yermak, Ukraine's Presidential Office head, said that he considers press freedom "one of the most important parts of any democratic society" and "one of the values we are fighting for" when asked about his personal reaction to an investigation accusing the country's security service of surveilling independent journalists.

The Ukrainian media community has complained about systematic pressure after a series of discrediting campaigns against journalists, often supported by anonymous pro-government Telegram channels. Ukrainian and international media organizations called on Kyiv to establish those responsible and bring them to justice.

The latest two attacks against journalists involved a threatening home visit to Yurii Nikolov, who revealed procurement wrongdoing in the Defense Ministry under its previous leadership, and covert surveillance of the Bihus.Info investigative outlet's editorial team.

The Bihus.Info said on Feb. 5 that a department of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) had been behind the illegal surveillance, after which a released video showed some staff members allegedly using drugs during a private party.

Yermak did not give a clear answer when responding to another question from the Kyiv Independent whether he could guarantee Ukraine's Western partners that alleged pressure on journalists from the security services will not happen again.

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…

"I'm sure you see at least very clear and very strong statements of President Zelensky about it. And we can see the statements of the security service and some concrete steps that followed the situation that you mentioned," Yermak said in press comments at the Munich Security Conference.

Zelensky said in late January that "any pressure on journalists is unacceptable" and later dismissed the head of the SBU department allegedly involved in the Bihus.info surveillance.

Law enforcement launched investigations into the two cases as obstructing journalistic work.

The SBU initially launched its own investigation into the surveillance of Bihus.info's team, but the Prosecutor General's Office announced on Feb. 6 that the case would be transferred to the State Bureau of Investigation.

The SBU head, Vasyl Maliuk, met with ambassadors from the Group of Seven (G7) countries, where they discussed the Bihus.Info accusation.

Ukraine's Justice Minister Denys Maliuska said on Feb. 6 that the Ukrainian government should take more control over the security services' actions within the country.

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