Human rights activists investigate how available information about the activities of State bodies is in Ukraine
The right for the access to information is one of the corner-stones, on which a real democratic society is based. The content of the right for information is the right of everyone to free collection, storage, use and distribution of information orally, in writing or by other means.
The constitutional grounds of the right for information are secured in Ukraine, first of all, by Articles 32, 34 and 40 of the Basic Law. During 14 years of independence of Ukraine the legislative base has changed towards greater informational openness. The thirst for informational openness and transparency in the activities of state agencies and other juridical persons was embodied in the Laws of Ukraine «On information» and «On citizens appeals».
However, if to consider the real informational relations in Ukraine, they are much worse than ones proclaimed in the legislation. This arouses natural anxiousness of human rights protection activists, who are doing their best to improve the situation.
The Kharkiv group for human rights protection, together with the public organization «Koreni travy» («Grass roots») initiated this year a large-scale public work in Ukraine in framework of the project «Access to information on the activities of power», which is supported by the International Foundation «Vidrodjennia».
Coalition of human rights protecting public organizations from all regions of the country is involved in this project. They study the observance in Ukraine of the right for the access to information in two directions:
1) The monitoring is realized, how the organs of state power and local self-government carry out the work for informing of population about their activities and the adopted decisions (publications in the official printed editions and in mass media, placing in the Internet).
2) Human rights protectors direct the informational requests with the aim to obtain the information about the state of human rights in the regions of Ukraine. Analysis of the received responses will allow not only to get the information on the observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Ukraine, but also to get some idea about the situation with guaranteeing of the active right for the access to information: how the state organs realize the direct rendering of information to the interested persons.
The Ukrainian legislation envisages certain mechanism of protection of the right for the access to information, which allows to make the officials to fulfill their service duty concerning rendering of information. Along with handing of the appeal against the refusal to render the information to the organs of higher level, it is expediently and necessary to turn to court. The Law of Ukraine «On introduction of changes to some legislative acts of Ukraine on questions of guaranteeing and unimpeded realization of human right for the freedom of speech», signed in April 2003, introduced changes into the Code on administrative offences, supplying Article 212-3. This article stipulates the responsibility for the illegal refusal to render information, untimely or incomplete rendering of information, rendering of inauthentic information in the cases, where such information must be rendered by request of a citizen or a juridical person in compliance with the Laws of Ukraine «On information» and «On citizens appeals». At that it is pointed out that «the officials, whom the action of the Law of Ukraine «On struggle with corruption» concerns, are brought to responsibility for such deeds according to Law of Ukraine «On struggle with corruption»«.
In the framework of the project «Access to information about the activities of power» the advocates network has been created, which, on behalf of public organization «Korni travy», will render legal aid to the persons, who cannot realize their constitutional right for the access to information. The Ukrainian government, according to the Universal declaration of human rights, being a party of the International pact on civil and political right and being a signer of the European Convention of human rights, must protect the rights established by these documents. This obligation envisages not only respect to these rights, but also guaranteeing of existence of the legal and efficient system for procurement of these rights and their realization.
Taking into account the fact that this efficient system is not created yet and the Ukrainian officials have no sufficient knowledge and experience for work in the sphere of informational relations, «Korni travy» will carry out a series of seminars for state officials devoted to organization of work with information. Conduction of 10 such seminars-trainings is planned.
The project «Access to information on the activities of power» will last until 31 July 2006. We hope that its fulfillment will contribute to guaranteeing of the right for the access to information in Ukraine. However, one should understand that realization of this right can be guaranteed only by the common efforts of new power (which must work for its citizens), representatives of public organizations and mass media (which will not lose their persistence in informing of public) and the entire society (which should endorse representative of the «third sector» and the «fourth power» in the struggle with unfair officials and call them to account for their deeds).