MPs propose possible imprisonment for unlawful video surveillance


Chernivtsi, March 2013

Two opposition MPs have dropped a legislative clanger by proposing criminal liability for unlawful visual surveillance of an individual.  Hennady Moskal and Vitaly Yarema, both from Batkivshchyna, want to add an Article 1631 to the Criminal Code which will impose a penalty ranging from a fine to two years imprisonment for unlawful surveillance. 

The draft law may have been prompted by the events reported in Chernivtsi when Hennady Moskal alleged that Arseny Yatsenyuk, leader of the Batkivshchyna faction in parliament had been under surveillance while taking part in an opposition rally in the city. 

On 30 March Batkivshchyna reported that after making the discovery, Yatsenyuk called Moskal and asked him to check the number plate of the car involved.  Moskal found that the number was not registered, and the police were called.  They came, and found among other things other number plates which were not registered.  Unfortunately the police then decided to initiate a criminal investigation against Yatsenyuk and Moskal for “interfering” in police work.

What the media understood immediately, but one hopes that the authors of this legislative gem did not, is the scope for abuse.  Criminal liability is imposed for “unlawful” surveillance with an explanation of the term which would seem clear enough except that an obliging judge could easily deem journalists’ video coverage of an event to be “unlawful” if (as often happens) one of those being filmed wants the cameras removed. 

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