Police question journalists over paint-daubed Yanukovych billboards
Gazeta.ua informs that their report that the police had initiated two criminal investigations over damage to Yanukovych billboards in Lviv and the Rivne region has led to police interrogations of its journalists.
The Gazeta.ua would stress that the journalists were carrying out their duties when they reported the damage to the billboards with the President’s greetings. Any interference in the work of journalists can be viewed as obstructing them from carrying out their professional duties, that being to provide the public with information.
With regard to the Lviv case, the editorial office received a letter from the Lviv police asking them “to provide a full list of the people working in the Lviv editorial office of Gazeta po-ukrainski, to inform of the procedure for posting articles and photos on the official website of the publication; and to say on what grounds the article and photo were published”.
The freelance journalist who sent the article - Yevhen Borisov – was called in for questioning on 20 January. He alleges that the questioning went on for around 4 hours and began with the investigator asking whether Borisov knows how people are tortured in police custody. According to the journalist, the investigator then went on to tell him about such has already been called in for questioning. He says that the “conversation” on 20 January lasted around 4 hours, and asserts that the first question which the investigator asked was “Do you know how people are tortured in the police?” According to Boris, the investigator then proceeded to tell him, and advised him to confess to daubing the billboard with paint so as to write about it first and become well-known in that way. That way the police in their turn could terminate the investigation more quickly.
Yevhen Borisov also stated that the police had taken his mobile phone supposedly to check whether it was not stolen. They gave it back after 30 minutes having copied all the numbers on it. Friends of the journalist have told him that the police are now phoning people from his list of contacts and calling them in for questioning. The police state that they are being summoned in connection with the murder of a taxi driver, and that their phone was in the same reception zone as that of the taxi driver’s phone. They were asked if they’d seen anything that could help the investigation.
The second case involved a criminal investigation initiated over damage to a billboard in the Rivne region. On 6 February Viktor Homol who provided the report was telephoned by Vasyl Ivannyuk from the Kostopil District Police Station (Rivne region). The police officer asked where the journalist had received his information, although this was clearly stated in the text. The journalist had not even gone to view the billboard, yet the police officer called Homol “the initiator of the criminal investigation” since he had covered it. The police are presently deciding whether they will simply demand an explanation from the journalist or call him in for questioning.
Gazeta.ua stresses that any interference in the professional activities of journalists impedes freedom of speech.
As reported earlier, the President’s Administration has asserted that the billboards with Yanukovychhe New Year and Christmas greetings was “social advertising” and stated that it did not have information about the number of such billboards “due to the lack of need for this information”.
The MIA reported at least 9 incidents where the billboards in questioned have been daubed with paint. 5 such cases were in Kyiv, and in four cases (one in Kyiv, the Volyn, Lviv and Rivne regions) criminal investigations have been initiated.