Court in Zaporizhzhya banned press at case hearing
Referring to the coronavirus lockdown, the Zhovtnevy District Court of Zaporizhzhya restricted access to the court hearings for all but the participants in the trial. The message was posted on the court’s official Facebook page on October 27 on in a post about the hearing of the case against the director of the park "Oak Grove".
“Due to enhanced anti-epidemic measures introduced by the Resolution №641 of July 22, 2020 of the Cabinet of Ministers, only those who are parties to the process will be admitted to the courtroom. The press service of the court will report on the progress of the court hearing on the its official website and on Facebook, ” the message read.
The assistant to the presidening judge, the press secretary of the Zhovtnevy district court Maria Svidlova told the regional representative of IMI that access to information was not limited, it was only a question of access to the courtroom.
"The entrance to the courtroom is limited due to the impossibility to ensure compliance with quarantine measures, namely one person per 5 square meters in a hall of 40 square meters," she said.
According to her, journalists can be informed about the progress of the case from the press releases. Besides that, the press service does not refuse to comment on the progress of the case.
Maria Svidlova also clarified that the decision on access to the hearing is made by the presiding judge for each case. She added, in March the order of the presiding judge (order of 16.03.2020 № 5-od) had set a special mode of operation.
IMI lawyer Ali Safarov noted that the restrictions in Resolution №641 should not be applied to the journalists.
He reminded that quarantine restrictions were introduced in Ukraine by the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine of July 22, 2020 №641 “On establishing quarantine and introducing enhanced anti-epidemic measures in the territory with significant spread of acute respiratory disease COVID-19 caused by coronavirus 2 SARS-CoV”.
As Ali Safarov said, the current document did not contain any restrictions (regardless of the quarantine zone) on visiting the courts and ensuring the transparency of the trial.
Thus, as Ali Safarov noted, restrictingattendence to the court and limiting the transparency of court proceedings failed to be based on the requirements of Ukrainian law.
In addition, he reminded that, in accordance with the fourth part of Article 25 of the Law of Ukraine "On Information", upon presentment of a document certifying professional affiliation, a media worker had the right to collect information in the areas where they imposed some administrative and health lockdown measures), except as provided by law.
“Thus, even in the case of restrictions on access to court proceedings by third parties who are not participants in the proceedings, such restrictions should not apply to journalists. Based on the above, the inadmissibility of journalists to cover the trial has signs of obstruction of the legitimate professional activity of a journalist, which is a criminal offense under Article 171 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, "said Ali Safarov.