Lut­senko’s folly

Kyiv Post - - Opinion -

Anony­mous sources in jour­nal­ism are oc­ca­sion­ally es­sen­tial. In a democ­racy, the func­tion of a free press is to hold govern­ment to ac­count by pro­vid­ing the pub­lic with the facts.

So if a source who can prove govern­ment wrong­do­ing re­quests anonymity out of fear of ret­ri­bu­tion by the au­thor­i­ties, jour­nal­ists should honor that re­quest and sources should be con­fi­dent that it will be hon­ored. Other­wise, such sources will dry up, and the pub­lic loses.

For that rea­son, the at­tempt by the Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­eral’s Of­fice to force, via court or­der, to in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist Ivan Ver­styuk to turn over his emails so that au­thor­i­ties could iden­tify a leaker is dan­ger­ous. It is ironic that the leaked in­for­ma­tion con­cerned the lux­u­ri­ous life­style of a no­to­ri­ous ex-pros­e­cu­tor ar­rested for bribery in 2015. The pros­e­cu­tor re­mains free while his trial drags on. Au­thor­i­ties here show more ur­gency in go­ing af­ter jour­nal­ists than cor­rupt of­fi­cials.

The court should take into ac­count the wider pub­lic in­ter­est. In the scales of jus­tice, the se­ri­ous­ness of the cor­rup­tion case should have out­weighed the se­ri­ous­ness of the leaker’s breach of con­fi­dence.

Cor­rup­tion flour­ishes for many rea­sons. One of them is that it is not ex­posed to proper pub­lic scru­tiny by a free press. More­over, Ukraine’s ju­di­ciary has shown it pro­tects cor­rupt elites rather than de­liver jus­tice.

It is good, there­fore, that weekly news mag­a­zine Novoye Vre­mya, which pub­lished Ver­styuk’s ar­ti­cle, will fight to pro­tect his source all the way to the Eu­ro­pean Court of Hu­man Rights.

The mo­tives are ob­vi­ous: Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­eral Yuriy Lut­senko in his two-and-a-half-year ten­ure has failed to se­cure a sin­gle con­vic­tion for high-level cor­rup­tion. He has proven in­ca­pable of fight­ing cor­rup­tion. In go­ing af­ter Ver­styuk’s emails, he ap­pears de­ter­mined to cover up cor­rup­tion. Lut­senko should re­sign and let in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ists in Ukraine get on with their work. They’re do­ing a much bet­ter job of fight­ing cor­rup­tion than he is do­ing.

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