Recommendations on the draft "Rules for accreditation of members of the mass media in the Kharkiv regional state administration”
The right for information implies the right of everybody for free collection, storage, use and distribution of information orally, in writing or in a different way. The right for information, as well as the freedom of speech, is an unalienable right not only of journalists, but also of any citizen, foreigner, apatride or juridical person.
The Ukrainian government, in compliance with the Universal declaration of human rights, being a party of the International pact on civil and political rights and a signatory of the European convention on human rights, must protect the rights stipulated by these documents. This obligation envisages not only respect to these rights, but also provision of legal and functioning system for guaranteeing and realization of these rights.
The basis of legal regulation of the right for information in Ukraine is provided by the Constitution of Ukraine. The constitutional grounds of the right for information are stipulated, first of all, in Articles 32, 34 and 40 of the Basic Law. During almost 14 years of independence the legislative base has significantly changed towards the informational openness.
In particular, Article 2 of the Law of Ukraine “On the order of elucidation of the activities of organs of state power and organs of local self-government in Ukraine by mass media” reads: “Organs of state power and organs of local self-government are obliged to render to mass media the complete information on the activities of these organs, to guarantee to journalists free access to this information, except the cases envisaged by the Law of Ukraine “On state secrets””. So, in fact, all journalists have the right for access to information in the organs of state power, including the Kharkiv regional state administration. Yet, in order to organize the work of journalists at power agencies, the legislators introduced the institute of accreditation. According to Article 3 of the Law “On the order of elucidation of the activities of organs of state power and organs of local self-government in Ukraine by mass media”, “accreditation of journalists and technical personnel of mass media at the organs of state power and organs of local self-government is carried out by their registration on the basis of official request of mass media to the corresponding organ”. Besides, Article 27 of the Law of Ukraine “On printed mass media (the press) in Ukraine” contains the norm, according to which “editorial boards of printed mass media have the right, by agreement with state organs… to accredit their journalists free of charge for the specified or not specified term”. Thus, the procedure of accreditation is informational, but not permissive, and any legislative act does not envisage the grounds for refusal to give accreditation, so such refusal is illegal in any case. There were precedents in Ukraine, when editorial boards of newspapers won the suits against the local organs of executive power (for example, editor of the Kreminska newspaper “Miski novyny” Iriva Chornobay vs. Kreminska district state administration). Accreditation can be cancelled only on the grounds distinctly stipulated by law.
The very spirit of the draft “Rules of accreditation of mass media at the Kharkiv regional state administration” does not meet the international and domestic norms on guaranteeing of the right for the access to information, contradicts the principle of transparency and openness of activities of the organs of state power. The Rules stipulate the absolutely permissive character of accreditation, they drive journalists into very narrow and ungrounded bounds. The attempts of the authors to prohibit to hand the requests on accreditation by fax and electronic mail, to limit temporary accreditation with 7 days, to prohibit the accreditation of specialized editions, to cancel accreditation under the pretext of “non-elucidation of the activities of directorates, departments and other structural units of the regional state administration” within three months from the day of accreditation, and even the instruction about video-shooting “only from a tripod” look rather invented. These attempts may be classified as pressure on mass media and meddling into their professional process, which is directly forbidden by Article 2 of the Law of Ukraine “On the order of elucidation of the activities of organs of state power and organs of local self-government in Ukraine by mass media”.
So, we reckon that the draft must be reconsidered towards guaranteeing of wide democratization of the procedure of accreditation at the Kharkiv regional state administration. It should be also advisable to present the revised draft for familiarization and discussion by representatives of mass media and community.
Yuri Chumak, member of the KhG
Evhen Zakharov, co-chairman of the KhG
P.S. In our opinion, the people, who work now in the department in charge of questions of cooperation with mass media and public relations of the regional state administration, are the professionals, really interested in arrangement of efficient cooperation with journalists. The draft “Rules of accreditation” was submitted to the public opinion for discussion of this document and getting of some remarks with the purpose of further correction of the draft in compliance with the demands of modern democratic society.