Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns a Kiev court’s decision giving the Ukrainian prosecutor-general’s office access to a reporter’s mobile phone data in order to pursue its investigation of a leak. The ruling, which sets a very disturbing precedent, was revealed yesterday by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).
The broadcaster said well-known investigative reporter Natalia Sedletska’s mobile phone service provider has been forced to surrender the records of all of her calls and texts between July 2016 and November 2017, along with associated data including the records of her location.
The prosecutor-general’s office has pointed out that it has not, however, obtained access to the content of her calls.
“This decision seriously compromises the protection of journalistic sources, which is essential to investigative journalism and which is guaranteed by Ukrainian and European law,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.
“This shocking precedent sends a powerful intimidatory message to investigative reporters in the run-up to Ukraine’s general elections. We call on the authorities to reconsider the proportionality of this decision and to restrict, with more precision, the exceptions to the confidentiality of journalists’ sources that are allowed by the law.”
The prosecutor-general’s office requested access to her phone records as part of its investigation into an alleged leak of “classified information” by the head of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU). Sedletska was interrogated as a witness for several hours in December 2017 but, in accordance with the law, refused to reveal anything about her contacts with sources.
Ukraine is ranked 101st out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.