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28.09.2006

The information is there, just not the access to it

   

At a press conference held today, 28 September, to mark the Right to Know Day, Ukrainian human rights activists highlighted the following. .

The Prosecutor’s office remains the least open body of power.  There is virtually no official provision of information, no open access to the Prosecutor’s normative acts, and the largest percentage of formal requests for information have been turned down by this body.

The Order of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine No. 89 from 28.12.2002 “List of documents created by bodies of the prosecutor’s office of Ukraine containing confidential information which are classified with the stamp restricting access “For official use only” is in clear contravention of the current version of the Law “On information”.  This Order allows for information to be classified on violations of human rights, the results of special checks and other information of public importance. In our view, all normative acts of the Prosecutor must be registered with the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine, as is the case with other state executive bodies.

The State Court Administration of Ukraine was identified as being the most open state body.

Volodymyr Yavorsky, Executive Director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union comments: “Our data is based on dozens of formal requests for information which we and our partners have been sending over the last two years in order to assess the human rights situation in Ukraine to virtually all state authorities and bodies of local self-government. 

The problems in this area are linked both with legislation and with its implementation”.

Viacheslav Yakubenko, lawyer, pointed to legislative problems with access to information and stressed the need to pass a new law on information which would include all aspects of exercising the right of access to information.

The human rights activists also mentioned that the President and the Cabinet of Ministers have still to make available to the public legal acts illegally classified with the stamps “Not to be printed” and “Not to be published” which conceal numerous cases involving corruption of the former regime.

It was also stressed that the amount of information which constitutes state secrets has been increasing with each year. For example, last year generalized data about operational investigations was classified, including the overall number of permits for wiretapping of citizens, a large number of which have been the target of criticism from human rights groups. Moreover, contrary to international practice which classifies the specific information, in Ukraine the entire documents are classified. This means that because of one sentence a document of 100 pages could be made secret.

The press conference was one of the measures to mark the International Right to Know Day which was initiated 4 years ago by the Freedom of Information Advocates. Its aim is to make each person aware of their right of access to information held by the government, their right to know how the officials they have chosen carry out their duties and powers, and how taxpayers’ money is being spent.

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