Kiev, March 8, 2019–The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on Ukrainian authorities to swiftly investigate an assault on reporter Katerina Kaplyuk and cameraman Boris Trotsenko, who work for the investigative news show “Schemes,” a project of U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Ukrainian Service, and to ensure their attackers are held accountable.
On March 6, Kaplyuk and Trotsenko went to the offices of the village council of Chabany, south of Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, to interview an official for an investigation into the private use of state lands controlled by Ukraine’s National Academy of Agrarian Sciences, according to a report by RFE/RL. When they began questioning other officials, those officials started punching the reporters, according to the RFE/RL report.
“Government officials assaulting investigative journalists is unacceptable, plain and simple,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator in New York. “Ukrainian authorities should swiftly and credibly investigate the incident and hold the attackers responsible, and make sure journalists can work safely.”
Trotsenko sustained a concussion from punches during the attack and his camera was damaged, according to RFE/RL; Kaplyuk was unharmed. Trotsenko captured the first moments of the attack in a video that RFE/RL later uploaded to YouTube.
Police arrived at the scene of the attack within minutes and took statements from the journalists, according to RFE/RL and a statement from the Kiev police.
After the attack, “Schemes” published a report identifying the attackers as the village’s deputy chairman of housing and communal services and its deputy for executive issues, based on publicly accessible local government profiles. In their statement, Kiev police announced that they had launched an investigation under Article 171 of Ukraine’s criminal code, for obstruction of a journalist’s work.
In February, CPJ expressed concern for the safety of “Schemes” journalists after they reported being followed and surveilled. Police are also investigating that case under Article 171, according to “Schemes.” In September 2018, CPJ reported that the Ukrainian government acquired a court order to access months of data from “Schemes” host Natalia Sedletska’s phone.
A European Court of Human Rights decision in favor of Sedletska kept Ukrainian authorities from accessing her data.