Committee to Protect Journalists calls for investigation into alleged targeting of Ukraine journalist News
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Committee to Protect Journalists calls for investigation into alleged targeting of Ukraine journalist

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on Friday for a comprehensive and transparent inquiry into recent events where Ukrainian military officials allegedly tried to serve an investigative summons to Yevhen Shulhat, a journalist working for the Ukrainian investigative outlet Slidstvo.Info. According to reports from Slidstvo.Info, this incident was orchestrated by Ukraine’s Internal Security Service (SBU), purportedly in retaliation for Shulhat’s investigations into the real estate assets of Ilya Vityuk, the head of the cybersecurity department of the Security Service of Ukraine.

According to accounts from Slidstvo.Info and other local media outlets, on April 1, 2024, two officers from a local military recruitment office approached Shulhat while he was grocery shopping, attempting to hand him a notice to report to their office. When Shulhat began recording and questioning the officers about potential links to his probe into Vityuk’s property holdings, they promptly left. Although individuals in Shulhat’s age group are legally subject to conscription under Ukraine’s martial law regulations, the circumstances surrounding this event suggest a deviation from established procedures outlined in Ukrainian law. Notably, CCTV footage examined by Slidstvo.Info revealed the two officers entering the supermarket accompanied by a civilian, identified by Slidstvo.Info as an SBU representative. This individual pointed out Shulhat before departing. Shortly after, the officers approached Shulhat, addressing him by name, and informed him of the need to update his personal information with the recruitment board, citing his recent 27th birthday.

This incident has sparked widespread reactions within military, political, and media circles. On April 7, several Ukrainian organizations and media outlets issued a joint statement, calling on the President, the Ministry of Defense, and the SBU to initiate criminal proceedings against those responsible for the targeted recruitment operation. Subsequently, on April 8, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office announced the commencement of a criminal case for possible abuse of authority and obstruction of journalists’ professional activities by SBU and military recruitment office personnel. The investigation is being overseen by the Ukrainian State Bureau of Investigation. Furthermore, on April 9, the head of the SBU’s cybersecurity department was suspended pending the investigation, while the head of the military recruitment office was demoted.

While Ukraine has made progress in promoting press freedom and media pluralism, the country still faces significant challenges in this area. According to Reporters Without Borders’ 2023 World Press Freedom Index, Ukraine ranks 79th out of 180 nations. Ukrainian journalists continue to be targeted for attacks and abuse by Russia, in addition to facing cases of harassment from authorities within their own government. International organizations such as the International Press Institute have documented a concerning trend of state-backed intimidation and harassment against investigative journalists in Ukraine. A notable example is the case of Bihus.Info, who uncovered that the SBU had covertly recorded some of their employees consuming drugs during a New Year’s celebration, subsequently leaking the footage to discredit the organization. In response to this revelation, the security service dismissed the implicated employees and pledged to uphold press freedom, though doubts remain about their genuine commitment to this fundamental principle.