Law on Access to Public Information: comes into effect



With amendments which could have negated any positive reforms attempted to the last minute, there can be relief that the law has, as of 9 May 2011, entered into force intact.  However, as warned by the Head of the parliamentary Committee on Freedom of Speech, most of the subordinate legislation needed to make the law work has still to be drawn up.  The following is therefore still rather theoretical.

The Law establishes a 5 day period in which information requests must be answered, with this reduced to 48 hours in emergency situations.

Subdivisions or specific individuals responsible for providing information should be established in different State bodies.

The Law stipulates that access to information about the activities and decisions of those in authority must be made public in the media and in official printed publications; information must be provided in response to information requests; information must be posted on the official website and issued via the information services of bodies or individuals in authority.

The Law envisages that special bodies will be appointed by the President and Verkhovna Rada for ensuring provision of access to public information.

The Law prohibits creation of State bodies, institutions, or jobs where authority is given for controlling the content of information circulated by the mass media.

The Law also stipulates that deliberate obstruction of the legitimate profession activities of journalists and / or harassment of journalists for carrying out their professional duties, for criticism, by public officials or groups of individuals according to prior agreement, shall carry the liability envisaged by law.

The Law also sets out the principles for the activities of the media and the procedure for journalist accreditation.

At a press conference on Friday, 6 May, the Head of the Parliamentary Committee on Freedom of Speech, Andriy Shevchenko warned work to make the Law really come into effect is basically stalled. He said that those in authority had not drawn up the subordinate legislation which the Law entails, and that those responsible for implementing the law had not been appointed in all bodies of power”. He added that few of them hadprepared themselves for the entry into force of the Law.  He predicted that officials would sabotage implementation of the Law and pointed out that amendments needed to be made to over 50 laws in order to bring them into line with the Law on Access to Public Information.

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