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IFEX member in Ukraine has computer hacked, e-mail correspondence exposed

Joeri Poesen/Flickr

Reporters Without Borders wrote to Ukraine's most senior police, security and judicial officials yesterday asking them to put a stop to the harassment of its local representative – Oksana Romaniuk, with the Institute of Mass Information (IMI) – in connection with her work in defence of freedom of information. IMI is an IFEX member.

For the attention of:
Prosecutor-General Viktor Pshonka
Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko
Security Chief Oleg Yakymenko

Paris, 9 October 2013

Reporters Without Borders, an international organization that defends freedom of information, would like to draw your attention to the shocking methods used in the past few days in an attempt to intimidate Oksana Romaniuk, a journalist who has long been our representative in Ukraine.

The entire contents of her personal computer's disk drive were exposed on a dedicated website on 8 October. A few days before that, hackers posted much of her email correspondence on another site.

These actions constitute an unacceptable violation of Romanyuk's right to privacy. We also regard them as a very clear attempt to intimidate and take revenge against Reporters Without Borders for its work in Ukraine.

Our concern is increased by the fact that a growing number of independent journalists have been the victims of similar actions in recent months. This trend, of which the potential intimidatory impact should not be underestimated, could have major consequences for the defence of freedom of information in your country. These actions must not go unpunished.

We urge you to do everything in your power to put a stop to these actions and to ensure that they are fully and impartially investigated as breaches of article 182 (violation of the confidentiality of personal data) and article 361 (illegal intrusion into information technology systems) of the Ukrainian criminal code. As far as we know, the police are currently investigating them only as breaches of article 356 (assault). In our view, this is a completely inadequate basis for arriving at the truth and adopting appropriate sanctions.

Ukraine has given very clear international undertakings to protect privacy and freedom of information. In February 2013, Ukraine agreed to comply with several recommendations that were submitted as part of its latest Universal Periodic Review by the United Nations Human Rights Council. In particular, Ukraine accepted the need to:

• “Create an enabling environment for journalists and media professionals and ensure fully transparent and impartial investigation and prosecution in all cases of attacks against them.” (Recommendation No. 97.119)

• “Ensure better protection of journalists and combat abuse and violence to which they are subject.” (Recommendation No. 97.121)

In the light of these undertakings and the Ukrainian government's often reiterated commitment to freedom of information, which is essential for a democratic society to function properly, we urge you to take whatever measures are necessary to protect Oksana Romaniuk's privacy and to bring those responsible for harassing her to justice.

I thank you in advance for the attention you give to this letter.

Sincerely,

Christophe Deloire
Reporters Without Borders secretary-general

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