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Naftogaz Ukraine asked to provide a comment for journalists, takes it as a formal information request

23.01.2023, 18:39

Journalists of Khmelnytsky's ZHAR.INFO sent a letter to the gas supply company "Naftogaz Ukraine", asking them to provide a comment for a report about a Russian business in Khmelnytsky oblast. In response, they received a letter wherein information about the supervisory board and ownership share was partially provided, and the company refused to comment on other issues, since, according to the company, this is an informatiob request, and the information has not been created and, accordingly, cannot be provided.

This was reported by the IMI representative in Khmelnytsky oblast.

Journalists from ZHAR.INFO (a publication operating on the basis of the public organization "Women's Anti-Corruption Movement") are currently working on a report about a Russian business and the law enforcers' actions regarding the seizure of assets from persons or entities with ties to the Russian Federation. The journalists are particularly interested in the company's stance, as it owns a quarter of the shares of one of such entities. On January 11, media representatives filled the organization's form with a list of questions, namely, regarding a company employee's membership in a supervisory board of one such legal entity, as well as the prospect of nationalizing a share of property with Russian ties, and an existing criminal case.

On January 19, journalists received a letter from "Naftogaz Ukraine" where a small portion of information about the ownership share and about the formation of the supervisory board of the legal entity was provided, and the company refused to consider other issues, since, according to the company, this was an information request, and the information had not been created and, accordingly, could not be provided.

In its letter, the gas supply company cited Article 1 of the Law on Access to Public Information and Clause 1 of Resolution No. 10 of the Plenum of the Higher Administrative Court of Ukraine (September 29, 2016), "On the Application of the Legislation on Access to Public Information by Administrative Courts."

IMI lawyer Roman Holovenko recommends that journalists send an information request regarding the issues related to information that has already been created, for example, the procedure for re-electing the supervisory board of a legal entity and its membership. However, all other issues would require creation of information, and a request for a comment does not oblige the recipient to provide it, since providing comments is a right, not an obligation.

"The only question that warrants a request is the one about the appointment procedure. Everything else requires creation of new information. Legally, you can not force them to provide a comment," said the lawyer.

Journalists also turned to the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office for comments. The law enforcers considered this an information request and noted that the requested information could not be provided, given the need to preserve the secrecy of the pre-trial investigation.

"The requested information regarding the existence of open criminal cases, the status of their participants, the results of the pre-trial investigation, as well as the status of certain citizens and business entities, is not subject to disclosure," said the SACPO in their response.

As IMI reported, State Bureau of Investigation demanded that journalists add a certified e-signature to their request for comment.

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