"Chetverta Vlada" is suing NACP for withholding information on declarations
The Rivne District Court has opened proceedings in the lawsuit filed by "Chetverta Vlada" journalist Valeria Khomych against the National Agency for Corruption the Prevention due to their refusal to provide the information she requested, reports "Chetverta Vlada".
As the media outlet writes, the NACP failed three times to provide the requested information on who among the Rivne officials has submitted digital declarations. "Chetverta Vlada" wrote to the NACP in July, asking for information on whether the chair and deputy chairs of the Rivne OMA, the leadership of the Rivne oblast district administrations and the Rivne Oblast attorney's office, as well as the heads of the district attorney's offices in the oblast have submitted declarations for 2021 and 2022.
Journalists were refused twice. The NACP said that their decision was based on martial law. The refusals were signed by the head of communications and information policy, Olena Konoplya.
"Chetverta Vlada" appealed to the Verkhovna Rada Commissioner for Human Rights with regards to the violation of their right to information by the NACP officials. The Commissioner opened a case, but failed to draw up a report in five months.
In November, at a forum featuring the NACP head of communications and information policy, Olena Konoplya, a "Chetverta Vlada" journalist asked her whether the information about a district administration official submitting declarations for 2021 and 2022 was classified. Olena Konoplya replied that NACP stopped providing such information because people whose declarations the agency provided in response to such requests started filing lawsuits against them.
When the journalist noted that she was not asking for the declarations, but only for information on whether or not a official submitted one, Olena Konoplya said that she does not write the replies, but only signs them. She assured that she was "on the side of journalists and advocates for providing such information."
"When asked if she understood that we could also sue them for a wrongful refusal to provide information, she said: 'Well, meet you in court, then,'" writes "Chetverta Vlada".
Having received no reply to the previous requests or an adequate response from the Commissioner, the journalists wrote to NACP with a request for the third time and received another refusal. However, it was now signed by the head of document management and control, Lyudmyla Hermanchuk.
"That's why, with the help of lawyer Yevhen Vorobyov, we drew up a lawsuit and filed it with the Rivne District Administrative Court on December 6," the media outlet notes.
In the lawsuit, the journalists ask that the NACP's response be declared unlawful, the agency be ordered to provide journalist Valeria Khomych with the requested information, and that the NACP pays the court fee.
On December 8, the judge of the Rivne District Administrative Court, Olha Polishchuk, ruled to accept the statement of claim and opened proceedings in the administrative case.
On December 12, the NACP wrote back to the journalists. In addition to the list of officials who have submitted the declarations, they provided the declarations themselves, which had entered the public domain the previous week.
"But we will not withdraw the lawsuit, seeing as the NACP spent several months interfering with our journalist's work and, in our opinion, these officials should be punished so that this does not happen again," notes "Chetverta Vlada".
Human Rights Platform lawyer Yevhen Vorobyov noted that it is important for the court to declare the NACP's refusal to provide information unlawful.
"According to Article 171 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, a person can be prosecuted for unlawfully denying a journalist access to information. Thus, after the court rules that the refusal was unlawful, we can go to the police with a crime report. In fact, the court's judgement will help the investigator to bring the guilty parties to justice for not providing information to the journalist," he said.
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