New draft version of the Law on Information takes some Council of Europe and public comments into account
The Ministry of Justice has presented a new version of the Law on Information revised to take into consideration the comments made by Council of Europe experts.
A public debate on the draft law was held yesterday, 28 March in Kyiv with the participation of representatives of OSCE, the Council of Europe, Ukrainian central executive bodies, civic and human rights organizations, as well as academics, lawyers and media specialists.
Lidiya Horbunova, deputy to the Minister of Justice, told those present that the Ministry had taken into account the “overwhelming majority of comments, criticisms and suggestions from the public, as well as from the CE experts”.
According to Ms Horbunova, the revised version available (in Ukrainian) at www.minjust.gov.ua has the following changes:
- The aim and purpose of the draft law has been reviewed. Clear definition has been provided of the information administrators, the procedure for access both to information and to documents, as well as the bodies which have a duty to provide information;
- The advice of the CE experts has been taken on definitions. The terms “information relations”, “information sovereignty”, “national information space” and others have been removed*;
- The draft law simplifies as much as possible the procedure for information requests. Pursuant to Article 44 of the draft law, a request may be submitted orally or in written form (by post, fax or email). In addition, the request is carried out in the form asked for by the requestor. The draft law stipulates that the information administrator must help the requestor, for example, where there are valid reasons (such as disability, illness, etc) for the person not being able to fill in a written request him or herself;
- The time periods for providing information in response to requests have been changed. According to Article 46 of the draft, the period for studying a request to decide whether it can be granted must not exceed five working days;
- The draft law also stipulates the duty of public bodies to publish information. A new section has been added on “Publishing information from public bodies”.
- The law envisages punishment ranging from disciplinary to criminal for violations of information legislation;
Among the comments not taken into account were the following:
- Providing free of charge the first 50 pages of photocopied information which by law is available to the public. Those drawing up the law believe that this norm would at present be difficult for financial reasons;
- Creating the office of Ombudsperson on information since there is at present a Human Rights Ombudsperson who carries out parliamentary control over adherence to all constitutional human rights and civil liberties, including the right to information.
Deputy to the Minister of Justice Valeria Lutkovska stated during the debate yesterday that the plan is to submit the draft law to the Cabinet of Ministers for review by 2 April. She stated that given the considerable public interest in this law, the Ministry of Justice will accompany the draft law in the Verkhovna Rada, and its revisions will continue until it is finally passed.
* From the Comments on the proposed amendments to the Law of Ukraine “on Information”
“The concept of “information relations” is a highly unusual notion not present in other European access to information laws. Human rights apply to all individuals and should be upheld by the state. Normally the right to information is simply defined as a “right of access by all persons to all information held by public bodies”.
“The concept of “information sovereignty” (introduced in Article 8) should be removed from the law. Information sovereignty is not a principle established in any of the human rights treaties. It may form part of the Ukraines Constitution, but this is not sufficient for the Council of Europe to sanction a law that gives preference to such concept rather than recognizing the rights established by the European Convention on Human Rights,and the Council of Europes numerous recommendations on freedom of expression and access to information, including the right of access to information (Committee of
Ministers Recommendation 2002(2)) and the forthcoming treaty on access to information to which Ukraine will likely become a party”.
“Another highly problematic concept is that of the “national information space of Ukraine” (Article 8). International law clearly establishes that the right to freedom of expression and information is a right that operates “regardless of frontiers” as established by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Ukraine has been a party since 1976. The rights established under this law should recognize the trans-frontier and universal nature of the right of access to information.
(see the link below for the comments in full – clearly not all the recommendations have been considered, however this will require some study and will be reported at a later date )