Free Net Ukraine Coalition lost case on websites blocking
The District Administrative Court of Kyiv dismissed the claim of the For Free Net Ukraine Coalition against the Ministry of Information Policy asking to disclose the criteria and methodology used by the functionaries when they formed the lists of Internet resources which allegedly violated the law and thus which were recommended to be banned. The judges issued that ruling on September 30, 2019, according to the website of the Digital Security Lab.
In its decision, the court noted that the requested information was correctly classified as information with restricted access by the Ministry of Information Policy, since the explanatory note containing the methodology of the monitoring the domestic segment of the Internet network covers only the recommendations related to the compilation of such lists, and therefore is a document related to the ministry's activities and the exercise of its supervisory functions.
But the coalition lawyer Vita Volodovska noted that the judges failed to provide an analysis whether such a restrictive measure was in compliance with “triple-elements test”, which is mandatory for classifying information as such with restricted access, in particular as information for internal use only. "The court did not analyze at all whether the disclosure of such information could have cause any substantial damage to the interests of national security and whether such damage would outweigh its public interest," she said.
In its lawsuit, the Free Net Ukraine Coalition emphasized that disclosing of such information would be of public importance, in order to comply with the principles of legality, transparency and reasonableness in government activities, since the relevant criteria and methodology are employed as grounds for criminal proceedings against some web resources. If such information is disguised, it will threaten with arbitrary judgments about allegedly unlawful information published by some information resources. It won’t allow to assess correctly whether the criteria applied are justified or not, whether they do not violate the law and international obligations of Ukraine, in particular in the area of freedom of expression.
Given the fact that the Ministry of Information Policy is to be restructured, the coalition has no intention to appeal against the decision of the District Administrative Court of Kyiv. But, the coalition is to go on monitoring and analyzing the public policy in the area of Internet freedom, in particular to demand transparency and objectivity regarding any human rights restrictions in the online environment.
As IMI reported, President Petro Poroshenko put into effect three NSDC’s decisions on sanctions (№133 / 2017, №126 / 2018, №82 / 2019), which, in particular, supposed to imply on ISPs “a ban to provide an access to the resources for the Internet users”.
In the fall of 2018, the Free Net Ukraine Coalition sought to find out by what criteria have been used to make lists of websites / resources to be banned. However, both the NSDC and the SBU then refused to provide such an information.
Vital Volodovska, lawyer for the Free Net Ukraine Coalition, sued the Ministry of Information Policy, the National Security and Defense Council and the Security Service of Ukraine asking to disclose the grounds for the blocking of websites.
The Free Internet Coalition was formed in May 2018 and englobed the NGOs Human Rights Platform, Digital Security Laboratory, Zmina Human Rights Center, Crimean Human Rights Group, Freedom House in Ukraine and Mykola Kostinyan.