Statement by RFE/RL President Jamie Fly
“RFE/RL strongly condemns the recent harassment of journalists and support staff working for the Ukrainian Service’s award-winning investigative program ‘Schemes: Corruption in Details.’ It is unacceptable, and quite possibly a violation of law, for anyone in Ukraine to disclose personal information, threaten physical harm, or otherwise put pressure on journalists for their professional work. We call on Ukraine’s law enforcement community to hold accountable anyone involved in such activities, which undermine the public’s faith in Ukraine’s commitment to media freedom, and to ensure the safety of our journalists and staff.”
“Schemes” journalists have come under considerable pressure recently from Ukrainian law enforcement agencies, including the State Bureau of Investigations, and others that have been the focus of the investigative group’s reporting.
On October 31, former deputy head of the presidential administration of President Viktor Yanukovych Andrei Portnov disclosed personal data belonging to a member of the “Schemes” team on his Telegram channel. In his message, Portnov suggested that the person whose personal data he disclosed was also under surveillance and could be exposed to physical harm. Portnov’s message was then forwarded by Servant of the People political party MP Oleksandr Dubinsky to his own sizeable social media audience.
On November 1, after "Schemes" posted information about Portnov's original disclosure of personal data, Portnov returned to his Telegram channel with a promise to publicly disclose the personal data of more Ukrainian Service journalists and support staff -- a promise that Portnov has since carried out.
The head of the National Association of Journalists of Ukraine, Sergiy Tomilenko, has condemned Portnov's actions as "outrageous and unacceptable."