US condemns Ukraine prosecutor's access to journalist's phone data

The new law carries heavy jail sentences for secretly recording government officials or spreading "negative propaganda" using a digital device

The US embassy in Ukraine on Wednesday condemned a court decision to grant the country's prosecutor general access to the phone data of one of the country's top investigative journalists.

"We are concerned that yesterday's court decision regarding investigative reporter Natalia Sedletska could have a chilling effect on press freedom and anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine," the embassy said on its official Twitter account.

"Ukrainian authorities should support independent journalism," it added.

Tuesday's court decision was linked to Sedletska's role as a witness in a case against Ukraine's anti-corruption head Artem Sytnyk, who is accused of leaking state secrets to journalists last year.

Sedletska also fronts and edits a programme called "Schemes" -- a joint project by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Ukraine's first public TV channel -- that has investigated officials including the president and the prosecutor general.

A court decision from August 27 granted investigators from the prosecutor's office access to metadata from her phone dating back almost a year and a half, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty said in a statement.

This includes lists of her phone calls and SMS messages, as well as her location over that time.

Ukraine was ranked 101st out of 180 countries in the annual media freedom ranking composed by Reporters Without Borders in 2018.