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15.11.2010

Appeal from Ukrainian journalists passed to the EU Mission in Kyiv

   

The appeal regarding the draft Law on Access to Public Information is addressed to the President of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy, It asks that the issue of when this vital law will be adopted be raised at the highest level during the EU-Ukraine Summit.

The appeal has been signed by 125 journalists, as well as trade union and civic leaders,  The signatures, including some of the most prominent journalists in Ukraine, came from a wide range of newspapers, Internet publications, etc.

As already reported, the appeal points out that a draft law on access to public information No. 2763, registered on 11 July 2008 and voted on in its first reading, is awaiting consideration in parliament. It was drawn up by Ukrainian and international authoritative organizations and was positively rated by experts from the Council of Europe.

The letter states that, using various pretexts, the Ukrainian authorities are refusing to pass this document despite numerous promises at international level. “Members of the government, for example, explain their unwillingness to pass the draft law as being due to their having tabled on 2 November 2010 an “alternative draft law”.

This draft law, tabled by Olena Bondarenko, Volodymyr Landyk and Yury Stets, has received scathing criticism from media specialists.  The most comprehensive analysis can be found here: Access to information the Party of the Regions way  Its author, Taras Shevchenko describes the draft law as “extremely weak. In many cases it does not improve, but worsens the situation both as regards access to information, and with regard to freedom of speech as a whole”.  Lawyer from the Institute for Mass Information, Roman Holovenko, has stated that the draft law’s very registration is in breach of regulations (since it is effectively an alternative draft law, not permitted after a bill has passed through its first reading – translator).

The appeal points out that there are separate laws on access to information in 80 countries. Of post-Soviet countries, only Ukraine, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan have failed to adopt the relevant legislative norms. At present there is a Law on Information passed in 1992 which enables officials to abuse their right to restrict access to information.

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