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ECHR Extends Ban On Ukrainian Government Access To RFE/RL Journalist’s Data

Natalia Sedletska, author and host of RFE/RL’s award-winning investigative TV program Schemes.
Natalia Sedletska, author and host of RFE/RL’s award-winning investigative TV program Schemes.

UPDATE: On December 12, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on Ukraine, which expresses the body's "concern at the recent ruling by a Ukrainian court that provides access to the mobile phone data of an investigative reporter from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and emphasises the fundamental importance of media freedom and protecting journalists’ sources, especially in the fight against corruption."

WASHINGTON -- Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) welcomed a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) decision to extend its order banning public authorities in Ukraine from accessing cell phone data belonging to RFE/RL Ukrainian Service journalist Natalia Sedletska.

The ban is in force “until further notice,” according to an official letter sent to RFE/RL on October 16.

The decision follows the ECHR’s initial “interim measure” under Rule 39 of the ECHR’s Rules of Court, which was made on September 18 with an expiration of October 18. The extended ECHR order gives Sedletska time to prepare a full complaint against an August 27 Ukrainian court ruling allowing investigators to review data from her phone.

RFE/RL Editor-in-Chief Nenad Pejic called the decision “a strong defense of the courageous investigative journalism led by Natalia Sedletska and her team, and of media freedom in Ukraine.” Pejic added that RFE/RL will continue to track the situation closely.

In the original ruling, Kyiv's Pechersk district court approved a request from Ukraine's Prosecutor-General’s Office to let investigators review all of Sedletska’s mobile-phone data from a 17-month period, from July 1, 2016, through to November 30, 2017.

The ruling stemmed from a criminal investigation into the alleged disclosure of state secrets to journalists in 2017 by Artem Sytnyk, director of the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine.

On September 25, the Ukrainian prosecutor-general’s office reported that the procedure of obtaining information from Sedletska’s mobile services provider was stopped at the request of the ECHR, but has not offered any information as to whether the provider had already transmitted the requested data.

International human rights and press freedom groups have spoken out in support of Sedletska, including the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Sedletska, a reporter with RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, is the author and host of the award-winning investigative TV program Schemes, a weekly program devoted to exposing high-level political corruption and abuse of public office among Ukrainian officials.

A joint production of RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service and Ukrainian Public Television (UA:Pershiy), Schemes is aired on the private Ukrainian Channel 24, independent channel Hromadske TV, and on Facebook and YouTube. It draws in over 11 million viewers.

RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, Radio Svoboda, with a monthly average of over 4 million visits to its website, sets a standard in the Ukrainian media market for independence, professionalism, and innovation. Its comprehensive coverage includes the award-winning reporting of its Donbas Realities and Crimea Realities websites.


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