KYIV, Sept. 5 - The United States, the European Union, and international media watchdogs have expressed concern over a Ukrainian court ruling that gives the authorities access to the cellphone data of an RFE/RL investigative reporter spanning a period of 17 months.
The court decision could have "a chilling effect on press freedom and anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine," the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine said in a tweet on September 5, after a Kyiv court approved the prosecutor-general’s request to allow investigators to obtain information from mobile service providers about calls to and from Natalya Sedletska.
Last month’s court ruling stems from a criminal investigation into the alleged disclosure of state secrets to journalists in 2017 by Artem Sytnyk, director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine.
Sedletska is the host of Schemes, the award-winning anti-corruption TV program by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service and Ukrainian Public Television.
The program reported on several investigations involving senior Ukrainian officials, including Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko.
Maja Kocijancic, the spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, said that the court ruling "raises very serious questions."
"No decision should violate basic freedoms of the media nor international journalistic standards such as the protection of sources of journalists," Kocijancic said, adding that investigative journalism "contributes significantly to the fight against corruption in Ukraine."
In Vienna, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) media-freedom representative, Harlem Desir, said that investigative journalism "plays the essential role of a watchdog in societies and journalists must be able to protect their sources."
Earlier, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called the court's ruling "an affront to the principle of press freedom that the Ukrainian government purports to uphold."
Meanwhile, Ukrainian journalist Kristina Berdynskykh said on September 5 that a court had also granted Ukraine’s authorities access to nearly a year-and-a-half of her cellphone data.
"Escalating the situation further, a Ukraine court granted the prosecutor-general's office access to phone records of another journalist Kristina Berdynskykh. This must stop," CPJ tweeted.
The media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Ukraine 101st out of the 180 countries in its Press Freedom index. (rfe/ez)