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Kryvy Rih City Council security bars editor from attending a commission meeting

18.01.2024, 15:56

The editor-in-chief of the local website, Svitlana Romanenko, says that she was barred from attending a meeting of the Kryvy Rih City Council commission on place names (renaming) on January 18. The media worker informed the IMI representative about this.

According to Romanenko, the municipal guard did not let her in, arguing that the meeting was off limits.

"In our opinion, in the opinion of the journalists, my colleagues, there is no reason to hold this meeting behind closed doors, there is no objective reason for it to be some kind of regime meeting. In fact, if the commission did not include Olha Honchar (commission member and "Expert-KR" editor-in-chief – Ed.), we, the alternative, non-government media outlets, would not know what was happening, what proposals were being made, etc., we would have had no access to what was happening at the meeting," says Svitlana Romanenko.

Olha Honchar, a commission member and the "Expert-KR" editor-in-chief, told the IMI representative that she recorded the meeting on January 11, 2024, and on January 18. However, she was attending the meeting as a member of the commission.

"The recording was my initiative, I just came there, put down my phone and hit record. No one said anything to me – neither the chairman nor other members made any comments. I am aware that my colleagues were not allowed to attend the meetings on January 11 and today, and this outrages me deeply, because, according to the provisions that the commission should adhere to, these meetings are not closed. When I asked why the public was there on January 11, no one gave me a clear answer. So I have no comments on this. I know that such meetings should not be closed," she says.

Following the January 18 meeting, a video recording of it was uploaded to the "Expert-KR" pages.

Svitlana Romanenko noted that the municipal guard standing at the entrance to the City Council had lists and only let in those who were on them. According to her, the conversation took place outside and was polite.

"No one really managed to break through today. They reported that a journalist had come and wanted to enter. However, they were not instructed to let me in, and I was not on the lists. Then they said to wait for someone from the press office to come out. I waited 10 minutes, the meeting had already started, I realized that no one was coming and left," the journalist said.

IMI lawyer Roman Holovenko notes that, according to the provision on the commission, it is an advisory body, that is, it is not a subject of power which is guaranteed to be open by the law on access to information.

"The provision itself is not detailed, it does not prescribe its meetings to be neither public nor closed. The Executive Committee could supplement this provision by prescribing the meetings to be open. After all, classified information is almost never discussed there," said the lawyer.

Journalist Svitlana Romanenko noted that she and several of her colleagues were admitted to the meeting on November 17, 2023. At first they were stopped and had to get their presence approved, but finally managed to get to the meeting.

The chairman of the commission, Serhiy Milyutin, who is also the deputy mayor of Kryvyi Rih, told the IMI representative by phone that overseeing the media coverage of the commission's work is not his job, but he believes that the public should know what is happening at the commission. Which is why, when he noticed Olha Honchar's camera, he did not make any comments about it and understood that they were being recorded or livestreamed. To the IMI representative's direct question on whether the commission's meetings were closed or open, he replied: "Yes, the meetings are open."

The city's Commission on placenames (renaming), assigning individual names (pseudonyms) to legal entities and communal property objects, jubilees and holidays, names and dates of historical events in the Kryvy Rih territorial community was created on October 18, 2023.

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