A Ukrainian hacker group published on 7 May, an extensive list of names and personal details of numerous journalists, who had covered the conflict from the rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine. The leak has raised concerns about the safety and welfare of the journalists, many of whom are affiliated with international media organisations.
The hackers published the list on a website called Myrotvorets (Peacemaker), claiming that they had gained access to the computers of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine used to keep track of the list of registered journalists granted to work in the area. The hackers claimed that they felt justified in making the information public "because these journalists collaborate with fighters from terrorist organiations," the Wall Street Journal reported.
The New York based Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement denouncing the leak, which contains private information, including cell phone numbers and email addresses of around 4,500 journalists from across the world. Some of those in the list have acknowledged having experienced extreme ordeal in the detention centres of Donetsk.
The organisation's Europe and Central Asia programme coordinator Nina Ognianova said, "Publishing journalists' private contact details puts them at risk. At worst this action could be read as a thinly veiled call to target them."
Around 40 Ukrainian and foreign journalists have signed a letter that states that some of those mentioned in the list have already received threatening phone calls and emails. The letter also highlighted that about 80 journalists had been subjected to torture after being detained by the rebels in eastern Ukraine. In some cases, the accreditation they received from the Russian-backed Donetsk administration appeared to be of little value, as they were still detained.
The Associated Press (AP) was among the numerous international media association's whose journalists were included in the list published by the hackers. AP vice president of international news John Daniszewski, said, "Providing news coverage is not the same as supporting any one side — quite the opposite. News gatherers for legitimate news organizations are objective. They cover and share information that the public needs. Ukrainians who believe in freedom should forcefully defend the value of news coverage to tell Ukraine's story. These hackers apparently have misunderstood the role journalism plays in a free society."
Ukrainian parliament member Anton Geraschchenko applauded the leak in a Facebook post, lauding the "patriotic hackers" and calling for more stringent controls over media and news content, prohibiting the circulation of information that could possibly undermine Ukraine's national integrity.
Yekaterina Sergatskova, an anchor at Hramadske TV told the Daily Beast: "This is a project curated by the SBU and praised by Anton Geraschenko [at the Interior Ministry]. He was the one who originally initiated that project, as far as we understand. Now they accuse us of 'helping the terrorists.'"