Dodgy lists

Kyiv Post - - Opinion -

It’s not a happy time for Ukrainian jour­nal­ists when they have to ar­gue whether they are be­ing tar­geted by Ukrainian or Russian spe­cial ser­vices. And that is ex­actly what they were forced to do ear­lier this week. This has been per­haps the strangest se­quence of events in a long time — even by Ukrainian stan­dards.

First, the Russian op­po­si­tion jour­nal­ist Arkady Babchenko was re­ported mur­dered in Kyiv on May 29 — only to turn up alive on the next day to re­veal it was all a sting op­er­a­tion to ar­rest the al­leged mur­derer hired by Rus­sia.

It got even stranger the next day when the Se­cu­rity Ser­vice or SBU re­vealed it ob­tained in the op­er­a­tion a list of Rus­sia’s po­ten­tial tar­gets.

The SBU was very se­cre­tive about the namest, which of course meant they were leaked to the press within days. The list had 47 names, most of them jour­nal­ists, but also ac­tivists, blog­gers and even an au­thor of chil­dren’s books.

The pe­cu­liar “hit list” showed how lit­tle trust jour­nal­ists have in their own se­cu­rity ser­vice — many, in­clud­ing some peo­ple tar­geted, doubted the gen­uine­ness of the list and the SBU’s in­ten­tions. Was it an at­tempt to in­tim­i­date jour­nal­ists ahead of the 2019 pres­i­den­tial and par­lia­men­tary elec­tion cam­paigns? It’s easy to un­der­stand such dis­trust. The SBU has been the tar­get of jour­nal­ists in­ves­ti­gat­ing cor­rup­tion many times — as was the agency’s boss, Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko.

Not only does pro­claim­ing a jour­nal­ist a wor­thy tar­get puts them in dan­ger. Paired with the Babchenko case it makes them acutely aware that they are de­pen­dent on the SBU — which can save their lives, or so it says.

Will it change the way jour­nal­ists are cov­er­ing the SBU, or those in­flu­enc­ing it among top of­fi­cials? It may for some.

We have a feel­ing that this is only the first one of the strange af­fairs that will oc­cur in the run-up to the March 2019 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

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