Media representatives and experts jointly sought ways to force law enforcement agencies to respond to journalistic investigations in the energy sector
A round table “Catch Me If You Can, or Why Do “Active Participants” of Investigative Journalism Go Unpunished?” was devoted to the problem of incomplete journalistic investigations in the energy sector and interaction between investigative journalists and law enforcement agencies authorised to consider anti-corruption cases. The event took place on May 29, 2017 at the Ukraine Crisis Media Centre.
Current journalistic investigations in the energy sector that had not been investigated further in legal terms by the law enforcement agencies were identified by the DiXi Group the day before by means of a survey held among the participants of the Transparent Energy Project coalition.
Representatives of the law enforcement agencies, the judicial system of Ukraine and the public took part in the round table in addition to the investigative journalists.
At the beginning of the event, Roman Nitsovych, Project and Program Manager of the DiXi Group Think Tank, told about the existing problem when journalistic investigations remained just “on paper”, and also gave examples of such high profile cases. “In revealing corruption schemes, Ukrainian journalists use expert examination, official data, documentation and extracts from Ukrainian and foreign registries. However, many such valuable materials are ignored by law enforcement agencies despite the fact that they offer a whole range of real evidence,” emphasized Roman Nitsovych.
As discussed during the event, the search for ways of interaction between journalists who investigate unlawful actions in the energy sector in their media materials and representatives of the law enforcement agencies is also needed because of the public importance of the industry.
Investigative journalists who were present at the round table told about the specific features of conducting their own investigations in the context of materials already published in mass media. In this case, according to a journalist of Liga.net Yevhen Holovatiuk, journalistic investigations should not immediately lead to the punishment of the “principal characters” of such investigations. “This is absurd. This is not the case in any democratic country. It is a long way from a journalistic investigation to the punishment: criminal cases, collection of evidence, legal rationale, court proceedings. In our case: an apparent impotence of the judicial and law enforcement branches of government gives very little hope that, based on the journalistic investigations, at least an elementary check will be carried out, not to mention court verdicts. Therefore, in the present-day Ukraine, journalistic investigations are no more than epistolary genre,” the journalist noted.
The Head of Public Relations Department of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Romania Livia Saplakan, talking about her work experience in the field of fighting corruption in Romania and her own work as a communicator of the anti-corruption agency, noted that the interaction between the anti-corruption agency and media took place in two ways: journalists could help detectives, and detectives could help journalists, with information about investigations that were under examination by the anti-corruption agency. “In my opinion, it is important that journalists receive the most important distinct information…”, the Romanian expert emphasized.
Oleksandr Skomarov, the leader of detectives of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, when telling about the areas of common interest in the mechanism of “media/law enforcement investigation”, said that journalistic investigations in general provide great help to detectives. “Today, NABU is investigating 25 cases in the energy sector for a total of UAH 6 billion. Some of them became possible, among other things, due to journalistic investigations”. However, as stated above, such investigations should also comply with important criteria in accordance with the applicable laws: all conclusions should be based on facts, verified information and documents. In other words, they must be proper and admissible evidence.
Judge of the Zhovtnevyi District Court in PoltavaLarysa Holnyk noted that, currently, there is practically no connection between journalistic investigations and law enforcement agencies’ activities.”It seems that the prosecutor’s office, the police, and the Security Service of Ukraine avoid any information gathered by the media, thinking it unnecessary and even threatening for themselves, and try to neutralise their results in any way. Only NABU demonstrates new approaches. Instead, high-ranking corrupt officials have a wide array of methods to influence the course of investigation (connections, funds, lawyers), especially if the investigation is carried out by individuals who are inclined to “gigging”, says L. Holnyk.
As a result, the participants agreed that the first priority step towards solving the problem of investigating media materials regarding the energy sector by the law enforcement agencies is a complex interaction between journalists and law enforcement officers at the stages of preparation and conduct of the investigation.
The round table was arranged within the Initiative for Counteracting Corruption and Improving Fiscal Transparency in the Energy Sector of Ukraine (Transparent Energy Project), which aims to fight corruption and improve financial transparency in Ukraine’s energy sector.