The Law on access to public information is one of few examples (except for the legislation on transparency of corporate ownership of TV), where domestic law and legal practice were considered to be frontrunners even for the most of Western countries.
Since 2011, the legislation on access to information has even been improved a bit, but the latest news from the Office of the President does not offer hope. A fortnight ago, the OP said to be unable to receive e-mail inquiries and requests for information
. On August 19, Ukrayinska Pravda received an actual refusal
to its request of a list of OP visitors.
The Office of the President, this is not all Ukrainian government in place, and nominally, this is not authority at all. But we understand that most of officials will now focus on Bankova street. First, given the overwhelming rating of the President's support, as well as further forming of parliamentary majority and government by a single political strength. Officials will simulate the OP’s experience in terms of their capabilities, they will simulate both the good and the bad gestures.
The inability to receive requests for information by e-mail leaves only one option of ordinary (paper) paper correspondence, which increases the response time by at least twice. And for the Head of State's Office such inability to work with electronic documents is a shame. The bureaucratic balancing act of who and how is to keep a record of the visitors to the OP is worthy of better use. Because this example will be once more taken up by local officials, when they will need to conceal budget or property spending. And it will obstruct anti-corruption initiatives on the ground, although the new government has promised they will overcome corruption.
Much less it concerns defending the right of access to information before the administrative courts since it has been violated, and lately, this has been already complicated enough in Ukraine. Because not only one should pay a court fee to seize the court, but even if the case is won, in order to make the secretary to provide the information, it is necessary to pay an advance payment in enforcement proceedings which is simply impracticable amount for an average citizen. We tried to reduce these "costs" for restoring justice and even prepared the bill
to be voted by the Verkhovna Rada , but it has remained intact.
Several figures of civil society, including co-drafters of the legislation on access to public information, had assisted in its implementation both under the presidency of Yanukovych and under Poroshenko's one. We are ready to provide our assistance to the authorities even now. But to begin with, they should, at least, understand that they have a problem with access to information.
By Roman Golovenko, IMI Media Lawyer, co-drafter of the Law of Ukraine “On Access to Public Information”
Photo credits: Tenders page