Journalists win law suit against Verkhovna Rada over information
The newspaper “Delo” has won court confirmation of its right to receive information which the Verkhovna Rada keeps from the public.
The District Administrative Court in Kyiv allowed a claim lodged by “Delo” (officially, the publishing house “Economica”) and ordered the Verkhovna Rada to reveal information about money spent on State-run sanatoria for National Deputies. The information had been officially requested back in July last year.
The newspaper had asked about the amount spent on such sojourns in sanatoria by Deputies of the sixth term of parliament in 2008. The information request had been ignored.
Now, according to the Court ruling, the Parliamentary Office must provide information about the amount paid to National Deputies last year for such health restoration measures and on the number of parliamentarians who made use of the benefits. They must also within a month provide information about the number of Deputies who actually visited these sanatoria last year.
The Office has also been ordered to provide information about how preparation is going for implementing the information and analytical system “Rada-4”. This system is supposed to be able to identify Deputies when voting by their fingerprint which would make it impossible (as now happens en masse – translator) for parliamentarians to vote using colleagues’ cards. Former Speaker Arseny Yatsenyuk promised to implement Rada-4 by September 2008. According to “Delo” information, its cost is in excess of 6 million UAH.
The Court did not, however, allow the claims asking for lists of Deputies who were in queue in 2008 to receive a flat or compensation for its purchase. It explained this by saying that this information is considered information about the property of a civil servant, and not about his or her political activities and the information is therefore confidential. It added that the journalists did not have the consent of the Deputies to receive this information. A conflict arises here, however, since how can journalists obtain the Deputies’ permission to publish the information if the Parliamentary Office conceals their identiy?
According to Petro Boiko, Vice-President of the Ukrainian Union of Bar Lawyers, publication of the names of Deputies applying for accommodation or for compensation for this, cannot be confidential. In his view the only confidential information would be the actual address of a politician.
“Delo” is planning to file another suit against the Verkhovna Rada over violation of the law on information. The Parliamentary Office is ignoring requests to provide its report on implementation of the cost list of expenses of the Verkhovna Rada in 2008, as well as that for 2009. In accordance with Article 9 of the Law “On fighting corruption”, information about income, securities, real estate and valuables, as well as bank deposits of officials and their families must be published on an annual basis. Among the officials listed in the relevant law are the President, the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada and his deputies, the Chairpersons of permanent parliamentary committees, National Deputies, the Prime Minister and Members of the Cabinet of Ministers, judges of the Constitutional Court, the Prosecutor General and others.
The original law suit was lodged in autumn 2008 as part of a project on improving public participation in fighting corruption. It is being implemented by the Institute for Mass Information together with Management Systems International, with the financial support of USAID.