22 May 2020 Lvl. 2
Alert created on: 12 Mar 2020 n° 28/2020 Ukraine
Investigative News Platform Slidstvo.info Hit with Criminal Probe
On 3 March 2020, journalists and editors from Slidstvo.info, a Ukrainian member of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), learnt their platform was being investigated by the Ministry of Internal Affairs as part of a criminal espionage probe. The basis for the investigation are Freedom of Information (FOI) requests sent by the outlet in December 2019 to 14 current and former Ukrainian politicians, state agencies and officials, asking for details about the meetings between United States and Ukrainian officials. Among those contacted was Oleksandr Dubinsky, a Member of the Parliament of Ukraine from the ruling Servant of the People party, who at a press conference in January 2020 alleged the FOI request was proof that Slidstvo journalists were involved in illegally spying on former United States Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. After Dubinsky filed a criminal complaint against Slidstvo for violation of privacy, last week the Ministry of Internal Affairs announced it had accepted his material as part of an ongoing, wider police probe into alleged United States surveillance of its own embassy officials in Kiev. Slidstvo editor-in-chief said the probe was baseless and threatened source protection by opening the door to police raids and the seizure of journalistic materials. The editor said the Ministry of Internal Affairs may have included the FOI requests into the probe in retaliation for Slidstvo’s recent investigations into alleged bribery and misconduct within the Ukrainian police force in the handling of several high profile crimes, including the 2016 killing of journalist Pavel Sheremet. Slidstvo.info covers politics, crime and state bodies in Ukraine, for which it was awarded the Investigative Reporters and Editors Medal in 2017.
13 May 2020
On 13 May 2020, Slidstvo.info editor-in-chief Anna Babinets, who is also the regional editor of the OCCRP, was summoned for questioning by Ukraine’s national police as part of the pre-trial criminal investigation. The summons came more than two months after Slidstvo.Info learnt their platform was being investigated by the Ministry of Internal Affairs as part of a criminal espionage probe.
- Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) statement: "OCCRP Condemns Planned Interrogation of our Editor in Ukraine"
- CPJ's Alert: "Ukrainian investigative outlet Slidstvo.Info faces potential investigation for its reporting"
- IPI statement: "Ukraine investigative news platform hit with criminal probe"
22 May 2020
Reply from the Government of Ukraine