Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is concerned about repeated attempts to intimidate journalists who do investigative reporting for “Skhemy,” a programme on Ukraine’s main public television channel, UA:Pershyi, and calls for a thorough police investigation into the harassment.
Two recent incidents have caught its journalists’ attention. A car used by “Skhemy” for its reporting was set on fire while parked in Brovary, a town 25 km east of Kiev, on the night of 16 August. Based on the preliminary investigation conducted by the police, the fire would be the result of arson.
A week before that, on 8 August, “Skhemy” journalist Mykhailo Tkach noticed suspicious holes in the ceiling of the kitchen in his Kiev apartment, and reported a possible attempt to place his apartment under surveillance. The police came in response to his request but conducted no more than a superficial inspection.
A programme that investigates government corruption and abuse of power, “Skhemy” has been broadcast weekly since July 2014 and is the product of cooperation between UA:Pershyi and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, a US-funded broadcaster based in Prague.
Tkach has shed a great deal of light into the murkier corners of Ukrainian politics over the years, and suspects that he may have been placed under surveillance because his reporting annoys senior government officials.
Formal police investigations were opened on 8 August into “violation of privacy” and on 17 August into “destruction or intentional deterioration of property” in connection with the car fire. But, after deciding that no effective investigation was being conducted in the former case, Tkach filed an official complaint about police inaction on 11 August.
“The harassment and attempted intimidation of the staff of ‘Skhemy’ is unacceptable, as is the police inaction,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “The Ukrainian authorities must demonstrate a commitment to defend the media’s right to inform, including the right to cover subjects that annoy them, and they must do everything to ensure that the police conduct thorough and effective investigations.”
“Skhemy” has been the target of harassment in the past. Last January, the car of a “Skhemy” correspondent in the western city of Lviv was set on fire. In October 2019, a court tried to force its journalists to reveal their sources, while a onetime aide to former President Yanukovych posted the personal data of the programme’s driver online.
Ukraine is ranked 96th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.