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Ukrainian Official Resigns, Citing 'Attacks On Journalists'

  • RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service

Ukraine's Deputy Minister of Information Policy Tetyana Popova has announced her resignation, citing what she described as attacks on journalists and freedom of speech.

"I am resigning. I don't agree with attacks on journalists and attacks on freedom of speech by political organizations and individual political officials. I can't tolerate the absence of a proper reaction to that kind of attacks," she wrote in a Facebook posting on August 3.

"As a protest, I am leaving the government, but will continue fighting for the Maidan ideas, for freedom and democracy as a citizen and a volunteer. I'll continue fighting for everything our patriots are fighting for at the front line," she said.

In a later interview with RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, Popova linked her resignation to the massive disclosure of journalists' personal data -- including her own -- by a website called Myrotvorets (Peacekeeper) in May.

The website's creators claimed the 4,500 targeted journalists had collaborated with Russia-backed separatists in the east of the country.

The website went down a few days after publishing the disclosure, but was back online a few weeks later.

The publishing of the journalists' personal details, including phone numbers and e-mail addresses, was widely criticized in Ukraine and abroad, with the G7 saying it "contravenes the spirit and the letter of Ukrainian law."

Many of the listed journalists said they have received threatening letters and phone calls.

In her interview with RFE/RL, Popova said she grew disillusioned with what she felt was a failure by authorities to take action against Myrotvorets.

"I went to a police investigator once and he asked what is really the problem with the publication of the list of journalists, if journalists have the right to publish data from the Panama Papers," Popova said, referring to the trove of leaked documents that uncovered secretive financial dealings of officials and businesspeople across the globe, including some in Ukraine, including President Petro Poroshenko.

Poroshenko did voice support for the journalists over the disclosure scandal, and the Ukrainian Security Service have promised to look into the matter.

However, other Ukrainian officials have voiced support for Myrotvorets, most prominently among them Anton Herashchenko, an Interior Ministry adviser and member of parliament, who is believed by some to have played a role in instigating the publication.

Popova said Herashchenko and other leading members of the Peoples' Front faction had demanded her resignation.

"I have resigned. If I remained in the government, then I support this," Popova told RFE/RL. "I cannot in that case remain in government. I come from the media business, I know that I will still work with the journalists and my reputation -- that's all I have."

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