Ukrainska Pravda correspondent Sonia Lukashova (left) and editor Sevgil Musaieva (right) have recently received death threats over their work. (Photo: Ukrayinska Pravda)

Ukrainian journalists Sevgil Musaieva and Sonia Lukashova receive death threats

New York, June 30, 2022 – Ukrainian authorities should swiftly and thoroughly investigate threats recently received by journalists Sevgil Musaieva and Sonia Lukashova, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.

Musaieva, chief editor of the independent Ukrainian news website Ukrainska Pravda, and Lukashova, a correspondent for the outlet, have received threatening phone calls and online messages since Ukrainska Pravda published an investigative report about a political official’s dismissal earlier this week, according to media reports, screenshots of the threats reviewed by CPJ, and Musaieva, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview.

“Ukrainian authorities must take all steps available to ensure the safety and well-being of journalists Sevgil Musaieva and Sonia Lukashova. Their work is a service to the Ukrainian public, and they should not face threats over their reporting,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Gulnoza Said. “Authorities must conduct a swift and efficient investigation into threats made against the journalists and hold those responsible to account. Ukraine already has a dire history of impunity in crimes against journalists.”    

Ukrainska Pravda’s June 27 report, written by Lukashova, covered the case of ombudsman Lyudmyla Denisova, a government official who was dismissed for allegedly exaggerating reports of war crimes in areas of Ukraine under Russian occupation.

Musaieva said that after the report was published, she and Lukashova started receiving threats posted publicly online and through personal messages to their phones and social media accounts. One message she received on Facebook said, “Sevgil, I have a feeling that your throat is going to be cut. I don’t know who and when – but run.”

She told CPJ that most of the threats were sent anonymously, but added that some of the accounts had user’s names. She added, “My work is to tell the truth no matter what that truth is, I don’t choose sides.”       

Musaieva and Lukashova’s names are both listed in a database run by the Ukrainian nationalist website Myrotvorets, which published their personal information and accused them of using “so-called journalistic activity” to support Russia. The website’s entries say that Lukashova’s page was updated or created on June 27, and Musaieva’s on June 30.

In 2016, Myrotvorets published the names, affiliations, and contact details of more than 5,000 Ukrainian and international reporters and media workers who applied for press accreditation to work in separatist areas, and labeled them “terrorist collaborators,” according to news reports.

Myrotvorets did not immediately respond to an email from CPJ requesting comment.

Ukrainian nationalists have used information on that website to identify targets for menacing text messages and emails, including threats of physical violence and death, as CPJ has documented.

At least 25 journalists have been killed in relation to their work in Ukraine since CPJ started keeping records in 1992, with eight journalists murdered for their work, including two chief editors of Ukrainska Pravda, according to CPJ’s research.

CPJ called the Ukrainian National Police for comment, but the call did not go through; CPJ emailed the Ministry of Internal Affairs but did not immediately receive any reply.