Human Rights in Ukraine. Website of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group
Freedom of expression

Police accused of seeking access to Internet publication’s server


Serhiy Harmash, Editor of the Internet publication OstroV reports that two weeks ago they received unofficial official that the Donetsk Department for Fighting Organized Crime [UBOZ] was gathering information about the organizational structure of OstroV and trying to gain access to their servers.

Mr Harmash says that they were all startled. If it was the SBU [Security Service], you could see it as linked with the paranoia of the present regime about organizations receiving foreign grants, but why UBOZ?   Legally, this could only be done with a court order within the framework of criminal proceedings.

Since their servers are held with a provider, OstroV and cannot be accessed without the provider’s consent, they decided to use the new Public Information Act and wrote official journalist information requests to the provider and to the Donetsk Police. 

On 16 June they received confirmation from the provider that the latter had received a letter from the Donetsk Regional MIA on 9 June “in connection with investigation into a criminal case”.

Unfortunately the provider cited Articles 6 and 8 of the Act to justify not informing OstroV of their decision, but at least the latter now knows that the police were trying to examine information on their servers.

They immediately sent a registered letter with the relevant request for information to the Head of the Donetsk Regional MIA.

They have thus far received no substantive response although have been given the name of the investigator supposedly dealing with the criminal investigation.

“Given that time is passing and we still do not know what manipulations are being carried out with our servers, who the criminal investigation is being carried out in relation to, and what we are accused of, we view the actions of the police as provocation aimed not only against members of the OstroV staff, but also against our readers sending us insider information and commented on our material on the site forum”.

He points out that those who have unlawfully gained access to their site, cannot only read work and private correspondence, but could also put any information that they want on the site which the staff would be liable for.

“All of this forces us to fear for our personal safety and for the confidentiality of other channels which OstroV journalists use in their professional activities, as well as in their private life, for example, telephones”.

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