January 22, 2024

22.01.2024 – SEEMO Condemns Threats Against Ukrainian Journalist and Urges Swift Investigation

On 16 January 2024, Ukraine’s investigative outlet Bihus.info (https://bihus.info/) informed the public, that they were wiretapped for a longer period. The media company reported the case to both the police and Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office. In one concrete case, on 27 December 2023, when the newsroom team from the outlet was in a hotel in the suburb of Kyiv (Київ) for a workshop, cameras were reportedly installed in the bedrooms of all team members, most of whom were women, as also in the sauna. The cameras were in the rooms in fire alarm-like devices. During a check of the rooms in January, the devices were removed. According to local sources, on 28 December, after the journalists and editors from Bihus.info left the hotel, one person rebooked the rooms previously rented by Bihus.info. On 17 January 2024, state authorities opened a case over unlawful wiretapping and video surveillance of Bihus.Info team. Bihus.info was founded in 2013 by a team of investigative journalists led by Denys Bigus (Денис Станіславович Бігус), born 1985.

On 14 January 2024, an additional incident unfolded in Kyiv (Київ), Ukraine. Unidentified individuals tried to break down the door of the apartment of Yuriy Nikolov (Юрій Ніколов / Юрий Николов), an investigative journalist and co-founder of Nashi Groshi (Наші гроші – https://nashigroshi.org/) in the Darnytsky district of Kyiv. The intruders, as captured in a video posted on the anonymous Telegram channel, labeled him as “provocateur”, “draft dodger” and “traitor.” This “messages” were written on papers that were put on his home door. Nikolov is extensive exposing corruption, including alleged corruption inside some state authorities.

Yuriy Nikolov, was not present during the incident, but one family member was at home. Nikolov requested a police investigation. On 17 January 2024, he mentioned that while his testimony has been taken, formal criminal proceedings have yet to be opened, and he awaits an official response from authorities. According to the state officials, the police have started a case over pressure on the investigative journalist Yuriy Nikolov. According to the police five participants in this attack were identified. The perpetrators recorded their actions on their own mobile phones.

It is crucial to note that this episode has broader implications, as Nikolov connects it to his critical stance against President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky (Володи́мир Олекса́ндрович Зеле́нський) and the government. This incident not only raises concerns about the safety of journalists but also underscores the potential use of intimidation tactics against those expressing dissent or criticism. President Zelenskyy said in the traditional evening video address on 17 January 2024 that “any pressure on journalists is unacceptably.”

The intertwining cases of Yuriy Nikolov and Bihus.info spotlight the challenges faced by investigative journalists in Ukraine. It remains crucial to safeguard press freedom and ensure accountability for those attempting to hinder the essential work of journalists in Ukraine.

The Institute of Mass Information documented 150 press freedom violations in Ukraine in 2023, 67 of them were committed by Russia as a result of its aggression against Ukraine. However 83 cases are not connected directly to the war.

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemns the recent disturbing incidents involving journalist Yuriy Nikolov and the alleged surveillance of journalists associated with Bihus.info in Ukraine. SEEMO urges Ukrainian authorities to swiftly and thoroughly investigate these cases. Such incidents pose a threat to press freedom and the safety of journalists, undermining the principles of democracy. SEEMO emphasizes the crucial role of independent and investigate media in a democratic society and calls for the protection of journalists who contribute to transparency and accountability. A free and unhindered press is indispensable for fostering a democratic environment, and any attempts to silence or intimidate journalists must be unequivocally condemned.

South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is a regional non-governmental, non profit network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in Southeast, South, East and Central Europe. SEEMO members are in Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Moldova (with the territory of Transdnestria), Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Türkiye / Turkey, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Austria, Italy, Vatican and San Marino have a special status in SEEMO. SEEMO has over 3000 individual members, and additional media as corporate members.

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