Online Harassment of Ukraine Activist Shows Pattern of Hostility | Freedom House

Online Harassment of Ukraine Activist Shows Pattern of Hostility

Washington

Freedom House is alarmed by a concerted online campaign apparently aimed at discrediting Oksana Romaniuk, a prominent freedom of expression activist in Ukraine, and the Institute for Mass Information (IMI), where she recently became the director. The targeting of Romaniuk is only the latest in a pattern of efforts to discredit journalists and manipulate the media in Ukraine.

Romaniuk’s email and computer were hacked into a week ago, and information stolen during the attack has appeared in disparaging articles published by a spoof online newspaper made to look like a real news outlet. The hackers also published all of her personal files on a website that is apparently also linked to the spoof online newspaper.

“Someone is seeking to discredit Oksana Romaniuk, a respected human rights defender, and the leading media freedom organization IMI, in targeted personal attacks,” said Susan Corke, director for Eurasia programs at Freedom House. “The authorities should immediately launch an investigation into the hacking, identify who is undertaking this vilification campaign, and hold them accountable for the crime.”

Romaniuk leads IMI, a Ukrainian media watchdog which had been investigating the spoof newspaper after it mysteriously appeared on the Internet several weeks ago and began publishing articles disparaging key Ukrainian independent media outlets and members of civil society. It is unclear who is behind the website or the hacking of Romaniuk’s computer, though the initiatives appear aimed at discrediting advocates for human rights and reform in Ukraine. Ukraine holds the Chairmanship in Office for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and may soon sign a series of agreements with the European Union that would deepen its relationship with the political and trade bloc.

“Freedom House is concerned that this hacking is another sign of efforts by powerful interests to manipulate the media in Ukraine, which is plagued by black PR, secretly paid news coverage called ‘jeansa,’ and shady business deals and practices among oligarchs and businessmen connected with the government,” added Corke. “We can unfortunately add this hacking to a growing list of physical and other attacks on journalists and the media in Ukraine; a trend that has been on the rise in 2013.”

Ukraine aspires to integrate into European democratic and financial institutions; Freedom House calls on Ukraine’s regional partners  to press the government to hold people who attack journalists and civil society organizations accountable and ensure a free and open space for independent media and civil society groups.

Ukraine is rated Partly Free in Freedom of the World 2013, Partly Free in Freedom of the Press 2013, and Free in Freedom on the Net 2013.

To learn more about Ukraine, visit:

Nations in Transit 2013: Ukraine

Freedom in the World 2013: Ukraine

Freedom of the Press 2013: Ukraine

Freedom on the Net 2013: Ukraine

Sounding the Alarm Round 2: Protecting Democracy in Ukraine

Blog: Freedom at Issue

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Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

Join us on Facebook and Twitter (freedomhouse). Stay up to date with Freedom House’s latest news and events by signing up for our newsletter.