Press release instead of the session of the town council!
Valentina Krivda, a correspondent of the all-Ukrainian weekly “Shliakh Peremogi”, learned that the session of the Krivoy Rog town council would be held on 28 May 2003 two days before the event. She got this information from the workers of the town executive committee.
This principal and meticulous journalist takes part in almost all briefings of local authorities. The situation with visiting the sessions was not so good in spite all efforts of V. Krivda. She handed the accreditation requests and appeals to the officials of the executive committee. Yet, as V. Krivda points out in her appeal to town mayor Yuri Lubonenko, during 12 years of the Ukrainian independence she managed to be present only at one session of the town council.
Thus, the journalist decided to fight for her professional rights and to struggle with the discrimination. In the appeal of 26 May 2003 she referred to the European Convention on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, to the Ukrainian Constitution, to the Laws of Ukraine “On information” and “On printed mass media (the press) in Ukraine”, demanded put an end to the creation of artificial obstacles and to render her the right to be present at the session.
Since V. Krivda knew how the mayor and his apparatus reacted to citizens initiatives, the next day she handed the appeal to town prosecutor Vasyl Kravets. The complete text of this appeal is quoted below.
“On 26 May 2003 I turned to town mayor Yu. Lubonenko with the appeal about my constitutional right for information. I asked to give me the opportunity to be present at the session of the town council, which would be held on 28 May 2003. I registered the appeal at 14:00 in the office of the town executive committee.
On the same day I orally familiarized with the text of the appeal the officials of the deputies room, organizational department and press service of the executive committee. From this talk I understood that I would not be permitted to the session of 28 May (I also was not admitted to the previous session that was conducted on 23 April 2003).
On 26 May 2003 I turned to S. Dzhabbarov, the prosecutor of the Dzerzinski district of Krivoy Rog, who explained me my rights and advised to turn to the town prosecutors office, as the organ competent in such cases.
Thus, on the basis of Article 10 of the European Convention on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, Article 34 of the Constitution of Ukraine, Article 9 of the Law of Ukraine “On information”, Article 26 of the Law of Ukraine “On printed mass media (the press) in Ukraine”, the Law of Ukraine “On the introduction of changes to some legal acts of Ukraine concerning the questions of guaranteeing and unhampered realization of citizens right for the freedom of speech”, I am asking you to take the appropriate measures for the realization of my professional journalists right to obtain the information freely at the sessions of the town council, in particular, at the session of 28 May 2003”.
The appeal was supplemented with 10 materials, including the copies of the article “Who needs the journalists of the opposition mass media to be personas non grata at the sessions of the Krivoy Rog town council?” published by the newspaper “Krivoy Rog vecherniy”.
On the day of the beginning of the session the journalist handed another appeal to the town prosecutor, from which one can learn about the further course of events:
“I have to inform you that, in spite of my appeals to the prosecutors office of 26 and 27 May 2003 with the request to prevent the arbitrary actions of the town power impeding my professional journalists activities, on 28 May 2003 the law-enforcing organs of the town executive committee did not admit me to session of the town council (at which the town prosecutor was present). I did not receive any written refusals to my written appeal to the mayor of 26 May 2003.
In the connection with the illegal restriction of my right to obtain the information freely at the sessions of the town council of 23 April 2003 and 28 May 2003, I am forced to send the phoned telegram to General Prosecutor of Ukraine S. Piskun and Prime-Minister of Ukraine V. Yanukovich. The text of the telegram is the following:
“As a result of the passivity of the town prosecutors office, Krivoy Rog mayor Yu. Lubonenko and M. Shvets, the head of the Dnepropetrovsk oblast state administration, on 28 May 2003 I, a correspondent of the all-Ukrainian weekly “Shliakh Peremogi”, was not admitted to the session of the town council. I am asking to direct the special commission of the General Prosecutors office, which commission will include the representatives of the international organization “Reporters without frontiers”, for studying the problem and for fighting with the violations of the freedom of speech in the Krivoy Rog region”.
The responses to the V. Krivdas appeals clearly demonstrate the attitude of the local authorities to the role and rights of independent mass media.
Here are several responses by V. Petrovnin, the executive officer of the town executive committee:
1. 30 April 2003 – To V. Krivda.
In response to your letter No. 2205/13 of 22 April 2003 we are informing that more than 100 editions of town and regional level are registered in Krivoy Rog, several tens of printed mass media are published. The representatives of the majority of Krivoy Rog mass media want to be present at the sessions of the town council, at the sittings of the executive committee and the meetings of various levels. It is rather difficult to satisfy these demands. So, the system is developed, when the representatives of electronic mass media, state and municipal editions are invited first of all. Every journalist has the opportunity to familiarize with the adopted decisions and to obtain the exhaustive information about the course of the sittings or sessions (including the audio version) in the press service of the executive committee. You also may use this opportunity.
2. 20 May 2003 – To V. Krivda.
In response to the appeals of 22 April 2003 and 23 April 2003.
According to Article 2 of the Law of Ukraine “On the procedure of the elucidation of the activities of the organs of state power and organs of local self-rule in Ukraine by mass media”, “organs of state power and organs of local self-rule are obliged to give to mass media the complete information about their activities through the corresponding informational services of the organs of state power and local self-rule, and to guarantee the free access to this information”. The corresponding informational services of the Krivoy Rog town council and executive committee are represented by the town newspaper “Chervony girnyk” and the TV and radio company “Rudana”. You can obtain the exhaustive information about the sessions and sittings of the executive committee of the town council and to familiarize with the adopted decisions in the press service of the town council and the executive committee.
3. 20 May 2003 – To V. Krivda.
Copy: to the executive committee of the Krivoy Rog town council
In response to the appeal of 23 April 2003.
Respected Ms. Krivda!
The procedure of the convocation of the sessions of the council, preparation and consideration of questions, adoption of the decisions concerning the agenda of the sessions and other procedural questions, as well as the order of the work are stipulated by the regulations of the council, which is approved by the deputies of the council and is a normative act of local self-rule.
According to the mentioned regulations, representatives of the press are invited to the sittings of the town council only if necessary. According to the Law of Ukraine “On organs of local self-rule in Ukraine” and the regulations of the Krivoy Rog town council, the propositions on the questions considered by the council may be presented only by the mayor, permanent commissions, deputies, executive committee of the council and the gatherings of citizens.
So, it is clear that Article 19 of the Constitution of Ukraine does not operate in Krivoy Rog: only the actions of the town council are regarded as legal there.
So, the question put by Valentina Krivda in her telegram to Mykola Shvets, the head of the Dnepropetrovsk oblast state administration, seems to be absolutely logical: “… by which motives I did not get the agenda of the day session, was not registered by the press service of informational requests and did get the journalists accreditation? Who will be responsible, in the accordance with Article 171 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, for the premeditated impediment to my professional activities?”
M. Korobko, Krivoy Rog (“Prava ludyny” (English version), July 2003)