The Public are most interested in how public funding is spent
Telekritika spoke with a number of prominent journalists about the new Law on Access to Public Information. On 9 May, three months after being signed into law by the President, the Laws on Access to Public Information and On Amendments to the Law on Information came into force. The laws:
- significantly facilitate access by the public to information held by public bodies and bodies of local self-government;
- standardize accreditation procedure;
- shorten the timeframe for receiving answers to information requests;
- remove any obligation to agree an interview with public officials, etc.
From now on public authorities must publish public information in official printed publication, on their official websites or by other means within 5 days of a document being passed.
The circle of organizations obliged to publish information whom one can turn to with official information requests is also extended. These are not only public authorities, but also bodies of local self-government and institutions receiving public funding (which are obliged to answer questions pertaining to those funds).
The law simplifies and standardizes the procedure for making information requests. Members of the public have the right to make such a request regardless of whether the information immediately concerns them and without explaining why they want the information. The information requests may be submitted verbally or in written form, by any means (post, fax, telephone, email). The time frame has been reduced from 30 calendar days to within 5 working days. If the information concerns information needed to defend a person’s life or liberty, pertaining to the state of the environment, the quality of food items, likely or actual emergencies or a threat to people’s safety, then the answer must be provided within 48 hours.
As reported, the gloomy truth is that most public authorities are not ready to bring the laws into force. The President’s Administration has created a structural division – the Central Department for Ensuring Access to Public Information, and the Prosecutor General’s Office has also created a special section. Yet within the executive structure, the Cabinet of Ministers appointed the State Committee for Television and Radio Broadcasting as the main body responsible for preparing subordinate acts for bringing the law into force.
According to Maxim Latsyba from the Ukrainian Independent Political Research Centre, the Law will only begin working fully when the Cabinet of Ministers passes a number of subordinate acts and parliament introduces amendments to over 50 laws and four codes.
However the Law is now in force and can – and should – be applied. Telekritika asked a number of prominent journalists what information they expect to be published most and what the first information request they would want to make.
The answers give an indication (if any were needed) of why those in power have fought to the bitter end against this law and would appear to still be trying anything to stall it. The journalists themselves and, they assume, the public would want to know how public funding is spent.
Much adapted from information at Telekritika