Kyiv 4.11.10:ARTICLE 19 and InternationalMedia Support (IMS) urge the Ukrainian Parliament to demonstrate their commitment to transparencyand public accountability by adopting a new Access to Public Information Law. Thelaw had been scheduled for consideration on 2 November, but was unexpectedlyremoved.
The Ukrainian Parliament (VerkhovnaRada) removed the law from its agenda on 1 November after previouslyabruptly postponing the vote. A new date for the vote has not been set. Thelegislation is at a critical stage and further delay by Parliament wouldconstitute a serious set-back for Ukraine’s progress on human rights. Ukraineremains one of very few European states without adequate access to informationlegislation.
ARTICLE 19 and IMS consider the adoption of the lawcentral to securing individual freedoms and developingdemocracy. Both organisations have repeatedly urged theUkrainian Parliament to incorporate the law as part of the progressive reformneeded to improve the legal framework for freedom of expression, of whichaccess to information is an integral part. Ukraine currently has a 1992 Law onInformation which recognises the right to information but has been described byinternational bodies as “confusing” and having overly broad exemptions andaccess to information under it has been poor. The new law would solve many ofthose problems by imposing a progressive framework in line with internationalstandards.
Severalinternational organisations, including the Organisation for Security andCooperation in Europe (OSCE) and Council of Europe, have recently pressed forUkraine to move forward with the adoption of the Access to Public InformationLaw.
On 5 October2010, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) called on theUkrainian parliament to adopt the Law on Access to Public Information as partof its legal reform agenda, specifically with regards to the fight againstcorruption, in its resolution on ‘Thefunctioning of democratic institutions in Ukraine’. The OSCE’sRepresentative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mjatovic, urged MPs and theUkrainian government to enact the law during her visit to Kyiv on 13 October 2010.
The President ofUkraine, Viktor Yanukovych, has promised to prioritise the adoption of thelegislation and take into account the recommendations of the PACE.
“The adoption of the access to public informationlaw would constitute a major cornerstone, in guaranteeing fundamental rights andfreedoms, specifically the right to freedom of expression. Ukraine should jointhe vast majority of European states who fully recognise the importance of thisright,” states Dr Agnès Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director.
“Journalistsin Ukraine are struggling everyday with the outdated “Soviet”regulations on access to information which are enforced in the country. Underthe current legislation, public authorities can delay providing a reply to aninformation request for as long as 30 days, which often makes thewhole idea of requesting information futile for media. It is in the interestof the public and the media in particular, that the Ukrainianparliament takes necessary steps to adopt the progressive Law onAccess to Public Information. The law is a result of joint work and consensusof different interested parties and it will help to ensure transparencyand a free flow of information in the interest of all,” says Jesper Højberg, IMS Executive Director.
ARTICLE 19 and IMS urge the Ukrainian Parliamentto adopt a progressive Law on Access to Public Information in accordance withinternational standards without delay.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
For more information please contact: Nathalie Losekoot, Senior Programme Officer, Europe, ARTICLE 19, at firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 207 324 2509 or Antonina Cherevko, IMS Programme Officer for Ukraine, at email@example.com or +380 50 410 27 68.
International Media Support (IMS) is a non-profit organisation working with media in countries affected by armed conflict, human insecurity and political transition. In more than 30 countries worldwide, IMS helps to strengthen professional practices and ensure that media and media workers can operate under challenging circumstances. For more information about International Media Support please visit www.i-m-s.dk
ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works globally to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression. It takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees free speech. For more information on ARTICLE 19 please visit www.article19.org
This statement is issued within the framework of the IMS Media and Democracy Programme for Central and Eastern Europe and the Caucasus.