Ukraine: RSF alarmed by a series of attempts to intimidate investigative journalists

Wiretapping, attempted break-in to a flat, hidden camera... In less than a week, several Ukrainian journalists have been intimidated by unidentified individuals. Investigations are underway. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is concerned about the increasing pressure on the media and calls for investigations to be conducted thoroughly, transparently and independently

Update of 05/02/24: On 5 February 2024, the investigative media revealed in an investigation that it had been under surveillance by the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU). This information was confirmed by the SBU, which claimed that it had acted as part of an investigation into drug trafficking. The following day, SBU chief Vassyl Maliuk condemned these actions and announced internal measures against the "people involved". One head of a department has already been dismissed for his involvement in the case.

The latest of the three cases – all of which occurred or came to light in the space of a week – is that of Iryna Hryb, an Odessa-based journalist who reported on 19 January that she had discovered a device in her car that could be used to listen to her phone calls or conversations with passengers and to track her movements. She linked the device to her investigative reporting on cereal exports in the region.

The target of the first case was Yuriy Nikolov, an investigative reporter for the anti-corruption media outlet Nashy Hroshy (“Our Money”). On 14 January, masked individuals tried to force their way into his Kyiv apartment while at the same time threatening him with being forcibly enlisted to fight in the Ukrainian army. The staff of, a media outlet that is well known for its investigative reporting on corruption, discovered from a video exposing their personal lives that was posted on social media on 16 January that they had been subjected to surreptitious filming and eavesdropping for months. The matter is in the hands of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), which says it is investigatingthe illegal acquisition, sale or use of specific technical means to obtain information.” The Kyiv police are also looking into the case. Regarding Yuriy Nikolov’s case, the police are treating it as a case of “obstructing journalistic work” and have identified five suspects.

“Journalists must be able to work in Ukraine without being spied on, followed or threatened. All those who have recently been subjected to intimidation attempts have one thing in common, that of working on sensitive cases linked to corruption involving Ukrainian elites. The Ukrainian media landscape draws its strength from these journalists, who continue their investigative reporting despite the war. We urge the authorities to conduct thorough, transparent and independent investigations into these repeated acts of intimidation against the media in order to make them stop.

Jeanne Cavelier
Head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk

These cases have alarmed Ukraine’s journalistic community. Mediarukh, an association of Ukrainian journalists and media experts, issued a statement signed by more than 70 organisations and well-known figures that condemned the harassment in the strongest terms and called on the authorities to react. In response to the statement and to calls from international organisations including RSF, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy described the harassment as “unacceptable” and said an investigation into the affair was needed. The authorities probably fear that pressure on the media could undermine Western support for Ukraine.

 Ranked 79th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2023 World Press Freedom Index, Ukraine has developed a more transparent and pluralistic media environment in recent years, thanks in particular to legislative progress. But the progress continues to be undermined by Russia’s frequent abuses against Ukrainian journalists, mass disinformation by the Kremlin, and harassment by the Ukrainian authorities.

79/ 180
Score : 61.19
Published on
Updated on 06.02.2024