Upper banner energy

How to Make Authorities React to Journalistic Investigations in Energy Sector

11 July 2017142
18700159 1350347748379943 7770648788849674879 n

The problems associated with the lack of finality in journalistic investigations in the energy sector and the cooperation between investigative journalists and law enforcement authorities in charge of anti-corruption cases became the focus of the round-table “Catch me if you can, or Why do ‘characters’ featured in journalistic investigations remain unpunished?”.

The problems associated with the lack of finality in journalistic investigations in the energy sector and the cooperation between investigative journalists and law enforcement authorities in charge of anti-corruption cases became the focus of the round-table “Catch me if you can, or Why do ‘characters’ featured in journalistic investigations remain unpunished?”.

Relevant journalistic investigations in the energy sector, which had not been further formally investigated by law enforcement authorities, were identified beforehand by DiXi Group through a survey among coalition members of the Transparent Energy Project.

Apart from investigative journalists, the round-table participants also included representatives of the law enforcement and judicial authorities of Ukraine and the general public.

At the beginning of the event, Roman Nitsovych, Program Manager at the DiXi Group Think Tank, told about the existing problem that journalistic investigations remained only “on paper” and gave examples of such high-profile cases. “Ukrainian journalists expose corruption schemes with reference to expert examination findings, official data, documentation, and excerpts from Ukrainian and foreign registers. However, many such valuable materials are ignored by law enforcement authorities, even though they offer a whole set of actual evidence,” Roman Nitsovych stressed.

As it was mentioned at the event, the search for possible ways of cooperation between journalists investigating wrongdoings in the energy sector and representatives of law enforcement authorities is also necessary in view of the social significance of this sector.

The investigative journalists, who were present at the round-table, told about the specifics of their investigations using their already published reports as examples. At the same time, Liga.net reporter Yevhen Holovatiuk said that journalistic investigations did not have to result in the immediate punishment of “the main characters” featured in such investigations. “This is absurd.  This can never happen in any democratic country. There is a very long way to go from a journalistic investigation to punishment: criminal cases, collection of evidence, legal justification, a trial. In our case: the obvious impotence of judicial and law enforcement branches of government gives very little hope that journalistic investigations will be followed at least by elementary checks, to say nothing of court verdicts. That is why at present, in the present-day Ukraine, journalistic investigations are nothing more than the epistolary genre,” the journalist said.

The head of the Department of Public Affairs at the National Anti-Corruption Directorate of Romania, Livija Saplakan, told about our neighbors’ experience of working in the field of fight against corruption and about her own work as a spokeswoman of an anti-corruption authority and mentioned two ways of cooperation between an anti-corruption authority and mass media: journalists may help detectives, and detectives may also help journalists with information on investigations pending at the anti-corruption authority. “In this context, it is important, in my opinion, that journalists receive the most important accurate information...,” the Romanian expert stressed.

Oleksandr Skomarov, the director of investigators of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, told about common points in the mechanism of “journalistic / law enforcement investigation” and noted that journalistic investigations generally rendered great assistance to detectives. “NABU is currently investigating 25 energy sector cases involving, in aggregate, UAH 6 bln. Some of them have become possible, among other factors, due to journalistic investigations”. However, it was emphasized that such investigations should also meet some important criteria in line with the requirements of applicable laws: all conclusions should be based on facts, verified information and records, i.e. they should constitute relevant and admissible evidence.

Larysa Holnyk, a judge of the Oktiabrskyi District Court in Poltava, noted that there was practically no connection between journalistic investigations and law enforcement authorities’ operations. “It seems that the prosecution authorities, the police and the SSU are steering clear of the information obtained by mass media and regard it as something unnecessary or even threatening for themselves, and they are trying to downplay the results of journalistic investigations at any cost. Only the NABU demonstrates new approaches. Meanwhile, corrupt high-ranking officials exert a wide range of leverages over the progress of investigation (money, connections, lawyers), especially when the respective investigating officers are willing to ‘earn some extra money’,” Larysa Holnyk said.

In the end, the event participants agreed that the first step towards resolving the problem of law enforcement investigations into investigative journalistic reports in the energy sector should be comprehensive cooperation between journalists and law enforcement authorities at the stages of preparation and conduct of an investigation.

This round-table was organized in the context of the Initiative for Counteracting Corruption and Improving Fiscal Transparency in the Energy Sector of Ukraine (the “Transparent Energy Project”) aimed at fighting corruption and enhancing financial transparency in the energy sector of Ukraine.


Comment
Energy banner