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13 Dec 2018 Lvl. 2
State replied
Alert created on: 05 Sep 2018 Ukraine

Ukraine Court Allows Prosecutors Access to Investigative Journalist's Phone Records

Source of threatState
CategoryOther acts having chilling effects on media freedom
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On 27 August 2018, Kyiv's court granted the Prosecutor's General's Office access to text messages, calls and locations from the phone of journalist and editor-in-chief of TV investigative programme "Schemes. Corruption in detail", Natalie Sedletska. The ruling covers the 17-month period between July 2016 and November 2017, according to the Kyiv Post.

According to a letter signed by more than 30 journalists and NGOs, this decision is linked to the case against Ukraine's National Anti-corruption bureau head Artem Sytnyk - accused of divulging a state secret by leaking information to journalists - in which Sedletska and other journalists are witnesses.
Updates
06 Sep 2018
On 5 September 2018, a court has granted the Prosecutor General’s Office access to the phone records of Novoye Vremya magazine journalist Kristina Berdynskykh, reported the Kiyv Post. Berdynskykh is the second Ukrainian journalist whose cell phone data was disclosed to authorities within 10 days. Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko’s spokesperson Larysa Sargan said that the warrant was “analogous” to the one targeting Natalie Sedletska’s phone records issued on 27 August by the Kiyv court.
State replies
04 Oct 2018
Reply from the Government of Ukraine
Follow-ups
13 Dec 2018
On 18 October 2018, the European Court of Human Rights decided to extend its order banning public authorities in Ukraine from accessing cell phone data belonging to journalist Natalia Sedletska. The ban is in force “until further notice".
20 Sep 2018
OSCE media freedom representative welcomes decision by European Court of Human Rights to safeguard phone data of Ukrainian journalist.
19 Sep 2018
On 18 September 2018, the European Court of Human Rights has ordered the Ukrainian government to abstain from accessing any data from the cell phone of investigative reporter Natalya Sedletska. The interim order is in effect until October 2018 and can be extended afterwards if need be. The Court also decided to give priority to Mrs Sedletska's application.
07 Sep 2018
PACE Rapporteur on media freedom and the safety of journalists calls for respect of confidentiality of journalists’ sources.
07 Sep 2018
OSCE Media Freedom Representative seriously concerned by Court order for disclosure of another investigative journalists’ data and reiterates his call to respect journalists’ right to protection of sources.
05 Sep 2018
OSCE Representative calls on Ukrainian authorities to respect journalists’ privilege of confidentiality of sources
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20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Mehmet Altan’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Altan’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Altan’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.

20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Şahin Alpay’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Alpay’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 46 (binding force and execution of judgments) of the Convention, the Court held that it was incumbent on the respondent State to ensure the termination of Mr Alpay’s pre-tria detention at the earliest possible date. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Alpay’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.
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