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Half a year later, "Syla Pravdy" journalists manage to get Volyn customs office to answer their request in part

18.11.2022, 15:51
Photo: lexinform
Photo: lexinform

After fighting for their right to receive information for half a year, ournalists of Volyn publication "Syla Pravdy" received a response from the Volyn customs office, reports "Dostup Do Informatsii".

In late June 2022, "Syla Pravdy" editor-in-chief Yury Horbach wrote to the Volyn customs office, asking what cars were imported to Ukraine during the "zero customs clearance" period, but was met with several refusals.

"I was deliberately asking for depersonalized data, because the law prohibits sharing personal details. I did this in order to see and analyze how the so-called zero customs clearance on cars, which had been introduced in April, affected Ukrainians' and Volynians' preferences in vehicles. This information should be public, as evidenced, say, by the fact that up to now, depersonalized information about all registered cars has been available in Ukraine, published by the MIA. In fact, I was asking for the same kind of data, as they would later appear in the MIA's database anyway," Yuriy Horbach said.

However, the Volyn customs office refused to respond to the request right away. They provided two arguments. The first was that "...the Volyn Customs Service or other subjects of authority have not compiled, and could not have compiled, any 'depersonalized lists of vehicles with details on the vehicles' makes, models, year of manufacture, engine volumes, and date of import' such as what you are requesting, as such information is essentially not public." The manager's second argument was that it was classified information because it concerned commercial goods.

Yuriy Horbach disagreed with the refusal and filed a complaint with the Verkhovna Rada Ombudsman for Human Rights.

"Unfortunately, at that time, the Ombudsman's Office was unable to do anything besides asking the Volyn customs office to provide an additional reply justifying withholding the information. This is how we came to the hear that the reason they can not provide us this information is that the tens of thousands of imported cars include those imported as humanitarian aid for the UAF, and therefore, in theory, they may somehow be identified, and this may somehow affect our defense capabilities," Yuriy Horbach said.

So, in late October, the journalists prepared and filed a lawsuit. At the same time, during an online meeting on freedom of speech restrictions in wartime, the journalists discussed this issue with representatives of the newly appointed Human Rights Ombudsman's team.

"This information is clearly of public interest. This is why we initiated proceedings in this case and are working on it now. We actively maintain correspondence with the Volyn Customs and are trying to renew the applicant's right to an answer. Our tools for influencing the applicant are limited, but we are still trying to employ them, too, so that the journalists get this information," said Yuliya Derkachenko, representative of the Commissioner for Information Rights.

After this meeting came the result: the Volyn Customs issued their third response to the request, wherein it provided part of the information and justified restricting access to the rest of it.

"I don't know if this discussion affected the course of my story, but in early November, I received the third answer to my request to the Volyn Customs. This time they approached the issue more responsibly and provided some information after all – a list of imported cars except the vehicles which entered the country as humanitarian aid for the UAF. This time, the restrictions were properly explained and justified. Thus, thanks to the help of the NGO "Human Rights Platform", I managed to obtain the necessary information from the Volyn customs office, and our readers will see the results soon," says Yuriy Horbach.

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