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13.05.2006

Presidential Decrees “Not to be printed”: the struggle of one journalist (and our campaign) continues

   

A year ago, journalist from the bulletin “Prava Ludyny” [“Human Rights”], Yury Chumak, sent the President of Ukraine a formal request for information. He has been waiting for an answer ever since.  However, he has not simply been waiting, but also taking legal means to defend his right to have access to information. Last year the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, together with the Civic Alliance “Maidan” launched a campaign “TO BE PUBLISHED!” which was aimed at drawing attention to the various decrees, orders, instructions, etc which were being issued by state officials with the stamps classifying the information as “For official use only” or ““Not to be printed”.

During last year the President of Ukraine issued more than forty such Decrees[1].

On 5 May last year, the Kharkiv Human Rights Group journalist sent a letter to the Head of the State formally asking to be provided with information in the form of a list of the decrees which, following a review, had been reclassified under the stamp “For official use only”, and which had had all stamps restricting access removed.

He has still not received any response.

Yury Chumak explains: “The President, of course, cannot personally respond to all requests for information and letters which come addressed to him. However unfortunately we do not have a law which stipulates a particular body (for example, the Administration or the Secretariat) which deals with this and which has such duties. I therefore turned to the President, and received no answer. I have accordingly filed a civil suit with the court against the President.”

On 21 December 2005 the court hearing finally took place, with the review of the actual case being transferred to the Chukhuyivsky City Court of the Kharkiv Region according to the place of residence of the claimant.

The court hearing was scheduled for 5 May this year, however due to the absence of the President’s  representative, it was adjourned and rescheduled for 30 May.

Yury Chumak:  “I still hope that the appropriate response will be forthcoming. And not only because, as a journalist, I was seeking to obtain this information in order to then share it with readers of the bulletin “Prava Ludyny” 

Commentary on the situation is given by the Associate Professor of the Department of Constitutional Law of the Yaroslav Mudry National Law Academy, Fedir Venislavsky:

“The Constitution of Ukraine makes no provision whatsoever for the issuing of Decrees “Not to be printed”:. Furthermore, it is clear that any decrees which do not contain state secrets cannot be classified as not for being printed because this restricts the right of the citizen to know about the activity of bodies of state power and bodies of local self-government.”

A year ago, the President’s Legal Adviser, Mr Poludyonny, speaking on television, stated that in the nearest future a list of Presidential Decrees which carried stamps classifying their contents would be reviewed: a part would be made available to the public, and those which contained strictly confidential information, would receive the stamp For official use only”.

 

Viktoria Marenych in Kharkiv, for Radio Svoboda, Ukrainian Service



[1]  In fairness it should be mentioned that, not only is this figure much smaller than the number which President Kuchma issued, but most were published in the first half of 2005, and since 1 November 2005 there has not been a single such Decree issued with illegal stamps restricting access.  (translator’s note)

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