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Odesa court orders the OMA to provide journalist with "Shlyakh" data

21.02.2024, 10:34

"Shlyakh" system. Collage by "Intent"

"Shlyakh" system. Collage by "Intent"

The Administrative Court of Appeal No. 5 partially ruled in favor of "Intent" editor-in-chief Valeriy Bolhan and ordered the Odesa Oblast Military (State) Administration to re-process the journalist's request for a copy of the decrees permitting drivers to leave Ukraine through the "Shlyakh" system.

The court ruling was issued on February 16, reports "Intent".

In his lawsuit, Valeriy Bolhan asked the court to declare the OMA's refusal to share information he had requested on August 16, 2023 as illegal and to order the administration to provide the information in writing.

The court agreed that the OMA's refusal to provide data was illegal, but did not insist they provide the details the journalist requested; answering the request remains at the administration's discretion.

The appellate court pointed out that they were not the manager of the public information requested by Valeriy Bolhan, and therefore could not determine the scope of information to be provided by the OMA.

As Valeriy Bolhan told the IMI representative in the Odesa oblast, this ruling got him to the point where he should have been a year ago.

"Hiding information due to supposed security concerns has become a very stupid and dirty business. Here we have an instance of not just withholding socially significant information from society, but possibly using this important tool for personal gain. Unfortunately, due to the OMA's refusal, we will only be receiving this information now, so we will have to file another request, this time for the entire year 2023. We expect to see these documents in their entirety and call on the authorities not to hide behind made-up excuses," said Valeriy Bolhan.

The media outlet notes that the journalist first appealed to the Odesa District Administrative Court, but they refused to satisfy Bolhan's demands. The judges of the first instance court ruled that the information requested by the plaintiff was not considered public information, but confidential information about a person (personal data). Therefore, the Law of Ukraine "On Access to Public Information" does not apply to the legal relationship in question and the requested information is not a subject of public interest.

However, the court of appeal disagreed, believing that the dispute was about the refusal to provide requested information about individuals who were granted permission to cross Ukraine's state border under martial law and did not return, as well as about the legal entities that initiated obtaining such permission.

The appeal court judges noted that if the journalist had requested some other information on top of this data, i.e. the names of the drivers, then it would have been disclosure of personal details, but Valeriy Bolhan did not. The judges also agreed that the information that interested the journalist was of significant public interest and necessary for the plaintiff to perform his work of promoting public discussion on socially important issues, and that the journalist requested the information in order to satisfy the public interest.

Moreover, the media outlet writes, the head of the Odesa Oblast State (Military) Administration, Oleh Kiper, had announced in September 2023 that he planned to provide the public with the list of drivers who used the "Shlyakh" system.

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