Prosecutor refutes MP Landik’s version of conflict with LB.ua
Viktor Zanfirov, Deputy Prosecutor General has confirmed that the main reason for criminal proceedings against the independent Internet publication Levy Bereg (LB.ua) was the statement from Party of the Regions MP Volodymyr Landik. Zanfirov was speaking at a meeting of the Interdepartmental Working Group on Observance of Legislation on Freedom of Speech and Journalists’ Rights on 30 July. He said that if somebody’s personal data is divulged, then the police can initiate a criminal investigation. “As you know, there was the relevant statement from the person and therefore a criminal investigation was initiated. Volodymyr Landik is very very disingenuous when he says that he took his statement back”.
He said that a check was presently underway and the results would be announced by 19 August. He added that there are at present no charges against a specific member of the LB.ua team.
After considerable public and international attention to criminal investigations against two independent media sources – TVi and LB.ua, President Yanukovych instructed the Prosecutor General to check the legitimacy of the criminal case against LB.ua within the space of a month.
During the meeting, the Committee heard, via skype, from Bertil Cottier, Council of Europe expert who commented on the situation with LB.ua.
“Journalists have the right to take photos of politicians in public places, but should not enter private territory without permission. Politicians should be prepared for having little privacy when carrying out their official duties, however they do have some privacy.”. He added that no public interest could justify interception of private and confidential conversations, however added that the quality of the line was bad, therefore the meeting decided to send him additional questions and a fuller explanation of the situation around LB.ua.
Lawyer Dmytro Kotlyar considers that the investigative activities concerning the media can be considered pressure and a violation of freedom of expression, especially before elections.
Lawyer Tetyana Kotyzhynska says that criminal investigations against media sources lead to self-censorship which harms the public who do not receive information.
David Stulik from the EU Mission in Ukraine says that the EU is extremely concerned over the cases involving LB.ua and TVi, especially before the parliamentary elections. He pointed out the importance of this since free and transparent elections are one of three conditions for the signing of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement.
Two weeks ago a Kyiv Prosecutor announced that criminal proceedings had been initiated against the Levy Bereg Chief Editor over alleged infringement of Party of the Regions MP’s privacy of correspondence The charges relate to photographs taken of Landik communicating by mobile sms messages with his son, Roman Landik, who was then in remand prison after assaulting a young woman in a restaurant in July and being extradited from Russia after the degree of anger among the Ukrainian public led the authorities to promise that measures would be taken. Landik Junior received a suspended sentence, and some 6 months after the sms incident and four months before the parliamentary elections, Landik Senior decided to make a formal complaint.
News that a criminal investigation had been initiated (after a couple of weeks of denials and uncertainty) came a few days after the tax police initiated a criminal investigation against Mykola Knyzhytsky, Director General of the independent TVi channel.
Both media sources are known for hard-hitting investigations of the government, including over corruption.
It was announced late last week that the criminal proceedings against Mykola Knyazhytsky had been dropped.