PACE calls on Kyiv to respect journalist Sedletska's right to confidentiality of sources
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has expressed concern over a court's decision to grant the Prosecutor General's Office access to information from the phone of journalist Natalia Sedletska and urged the Ukrainian authorities to ensure compliance with her rights to the confidentiality of sources.
"Investigative journalists play a fundamental watchdog role in our societies, as they look into corruption or the misuse of power. Their work is based on a variety of sources, and they have the right to keep these sources confidential," the Ukrayinska Pravda ezine quoted a statement by PACE General Rapporteur on Media Freedom and the Safety of Journalists George Foulkes.
Foulkes recalled that keeping sources confidential "is a standard established by the European Court of Human Rights."
"I call on the Ukrainian authorities to ensure that journalist Natalia Sedletska's right to keep her sources confidential is respected," he said.
As earlier reported, the editorial board of the Schemes TV program announced on September 4 that Ukraine's PGO had been granted access to information on the telephone belonging to the program's chief editor, Natalia Sedletska. The office said the step was tantamount to pressuring an independent journalist.
"Kyiv's Pechersky District Court has granted the PGO access to telephone conversations, messages and information about the location of Natalia Sedletska's telephone in a case involving the likely leak of a state secret and information of a pretrial investigation by National Anti-corruption Bureau of Ukraine Director Artem Sytnyk. [It's] not information about one certain day, but for 17 months," the Schemes office said on its Facebook page on September 4.
On the same day, spokesman for the Prosecutor General's Office Andriy Lysenko said on his Facebook page that prosecutors' access to Sedletska's phone data did not cover the content of conversations, and the journalist appeared along with other citizens as a possible witness.
"The [prosecutors] are authorized by the court to examine telecoms data for a period of 17 months, due to the need to establish the date, time and place of the likely leak of classified information by the director of NABU in criminal proceedings under Part 2 of Article 163, Part 1 of Article 182, Part 1 of Article 328, Part 2 of Article 387 of Ukraine's Criminal Code," Lysenko said, adding that Sedletska could be called as a witness in the case.
On September 5, Sedletska said PGO chief Yuriy Lutsenko invited her to a meeting on the same day to explain the prosecutor's access to information from her phone.
At the same time, she said RFE/RL was inviting Lutsenko "to give an open comment on the air, instead of having a behind-the-scenes, closed meeting."
Sedletska later said Lutsenko refused to publicly answer questions about investigators' access to her phone. "Our proposal to him to appear on air remains open," she said.
Lutsenko invited MPs Olha Chervakova and Viktoria Siumar for his meeting with her.
"Schemes: Corruption in Detail" is a weekly television program investigating high-profile corruption cases. The program has aired since July 2014. It is a joint project of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and TV channel UA: First.