Assault on independent media in Ukraine, or legitimate legal request?

Ukraine Security Service (SBU) has asked Ukrainianska Pravda (UP) to remove a January 2017 article it says contains info which is a state secret. It is being treated as an instance of the government “bullying” media. The problem with people immediately crying foul at every turn is that it diverts attention away from the actual sins the government commits. Stop the bullshit. Stay focused.

While the SBU’s belated request is certainly like closing the barn door after the horse has run regarding protecting the state secret, the request does not amount to “bullying independent media”. UP admitted they leaked a “confidential/secret” state doc (see the screen shot below).

So, if Ukrainianska Pravda leaked a state secret without first getting clearance, it is reasonable to expect that the SBU will be investigating the source of the leak. Under the circumstances, it is in UP’s interest to either cooperate or seek protection of the journalistic source under freedom of expression (see the practice of the European Court of Human Rights on the Right of Journalists to protect the confidentiality of their sources).

The big question to ask is whether UP’s whistleblowing was justifiable. Considering that Ukraine is at war, it may indeed be reasonable to investigate leaks regarding military spending. If corruption was exposed as result of the leak, one can argue that it was justifiable whistleblowing, and that the source of the leak should be protected.

Regardless, SBU has the right to investigate the source of the leak without demanding that UP reveals the identity of the source. But ultimately, the matter is up to the courts which will weigh whether a request by the SBU to identify the source of the leak meets the criteria for exceptions to the right to maintain confidentiality of sources. If the SBU seeks to unearth the source of the leak, this is most certainly within its right, and not “bullying”.

This is why I have a problem with the quickly popularized angle of the matter as the “SBU bullying” UP, and that it is “an assault on independent media”. It is just wrong. What should be discussed is the whistleblowing, and whether it was justifiable.