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ECHR rules that the Central Election Commission violated the rights of "Chetverta Vlada" journalists

15.04.2024, 11:38

European Court of Human Rights. Photo by Ukrinform

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judged in favour of the "Chetverta Vlada" journalists (Rivne oblast) and agreed that Ukraine's Central Election Commission's refusal to provide information to them 12 years ago was unlawful.

The applicants had to wait for the ruling for about 10 years, reports "Chetverta Vlada".

"Chetverta Vlada" editors Antonina and Volodymyr Torbich submitted requests for access to public information to the Central Election Commission (CEC) in 2012. They asked the Commission for photos and CVs of the deputy candidates running in the Rivne oblast's majority districts. The media outlet intended to provide voters with as much information about the candidates as possible.

The CEC refused to provide the data, explaining that the CVs contained both public and classified information and the photos could not be shared without the consent of the candidates.

The national courts where the journalists filed lawsuits sided with the CEC. The outlet notes that a total of 13 judges ruled in favor of the Election Commission, prompting Chetverta Vlada to appeal to the ECHR with the legal support of the lawyer Lyudmyla Opryshko, who specializes in media law.

The content of the ECHR judgement

On March 28, 2024, the ECtHR ruled that concealing information about persons registered to participate in parliamentary elections from Ukrainian citizens impaired the exercise of their freedom to receive and impart information.

This right is guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

Lyudmyla Opryshko, a media lawyer from the NGO Human Rights Platform who represented the media outlet in court, said that there was a certain uniqueness to the case because the journalists had asked the CEC not only for copies of the candidates' CVs (and not just information from these CVs), but also for their photos.

"It was a rather unusual request! I think that no one had done this at that time. I haven't heard about anything like that even since. In the end, both the CEC and the Ukrainian courts decided to deny the journalists' demands on the grounds that the requested information was confidential. Which makes the European Court win extremely important! After all, the ECHR sided with the journalists, agreeing that they should have access to reliable information during elections – to the primary sources of data on the candidates (copies of their CVs), and not just to the so-called biographical information about them released or provided upon request by the Election Commission", said Lyudmyla Opryshko.

In 2023, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the decisions of the Ukrainian courts which ruled that the Rivne Oblast State Administration and the Verkhovna Rada officials had legitimate reasons to withhold public information from the "Chetverta Vlada" chief editor, Volodymyr Torbich, were unlawful.

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