Call on European Council to help ensure Access to Public Information
On the eve of the EU-Ukraine Summit, journalists and civic organizations have begun collecting signatures on a petition to the President of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy. They are asking that the issue be raised at the highest level of the Ukrainian government’s obligation to the Ukrainian public and international organizations, including PACE [Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe) to adopt the Law on Access to Public Information.
The appeal states that in the Verkhovna Rada at the present time there is a draft law on access to public information No. 2763, registered on 11 July 2008 and voted on in its first reading. It was drawn up by Ukrainian and international authoritative organizations and was positively rated by experts from the Council of Europe.
The civic activists and journalists are turning to Herman van Rompuy because, on 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”.
As reported here, 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.
Signatures are being collected up till Monday, 8 November in the Telekritika office (Shevchenko Boulevard, 346, 3rd floor (044 235-70-91, 044 235-22-55) Those wishing to sign should bring identification and if signing on behalf of an organization, the organization’s stamp.
The EU-Ukraine Summit is on 22 November in Brussels and will address progress on negotiations regarding Ukraine’s associate membership of the EU.
The appeal has been initiated by the Stop Censorship Movement which was created on 21 May 2010. It is an initiative by Ukrainian journalists and media NGOs aimed at upholding freedom of speech, preventing censorship, the obstruction of journalists when carrying out their professional duties, and violations of professional standards in covering socio-political issues. It has no political ties or agenda. More information can be obtained from Artem Sokolenko at censor[at]gmail.com