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Poltava media outlet "Zmist" says their reporter was removed from a meeting. City Council explains why

10.08.2023, 16:53
Photo: ZMIST
Photo: ZMIST

Poltava media outlet "Zmist" claims that their reporter Yanina Murdza was forced to leave a City Council meeting discussing issues related to civil defense and the procurement of goods for the army. The City Council explained that they had asked her to leave for the discussion.

The Poltava City Council secretary and acting Mayor, Kateryna Yamshchykova, had said that the meeting was open, but during the meeting itself the participants said that a part of it should be held behind closed doors in order to explain the issues.

As the media outlet reported on Facebook, deputy Yevhen Dykan demanded that the journalist leave the room of the meeting.

"On Yevhen Dykan's demand, the reporter was asked to leave the room and wait for the post-discussion conclusions. While none of the members of the meeting opposed the presence of a journalist, none of them disagreed with the deputy's stance, either. The arguments for removing thereporter literally sounded like this: 'Now stop. As a deputy, I am against a journalist hearing who does what. Of course, she's sitting there writing everthung down. That's what I'm saying,'" Yevhen Dykan said, according to "Zmist".

The editors believe that "Yevhen Dykan made the journalist leave the meeting because he does not want the community to know about the purchases for the army, which are made with his money, especially in the context of the recent dubious purchases."

"We want our readers to know how the whims of one person can affect the publicity of a discussion on a critically important topic for our community, a discussion which had been announced in advance. We admit that certain military issues must be discussed in the absence of mass media, but this event was announced yesterday by the City Council secretary, Kateryna Yamshchykova, who invited journalists to come. Not only that, but we also agreed to submit the report for approval before publication," the media outlet noted.

In her comment to the IMI representative in Poltava oblast, "Zmist" editor Anastasia Dobryak, reported that the event which the reporter was attending, had been announced in advance. The announcement about the meeting was posted in the group chat for the city authorities and journalists. The disclaimer that some of the issues were to be discussed in private was made right before the meeting.

"The press office told us that they would have to review our reports before publication to see if they contain any classified information. Then they said that we would be asked to leave for the discussion of the secret part. It turned out that the secret part started when Yevhen Dykan said that he was against it," commented Anastasia Dobryak.

"Zmist" later posted news about the meeting on the procurement of goods for the army, saying that the reporter got the comments after the article about her being removed from the meeting was already published. But in her comment to the IMI representative Anastasia Dobryak reported that the reporter Yanina Murdza had waited for the deputies to come out to her after the meeting and got her comments then, as was promised.

Commenting to the IMI representative, City Council deputy Yevhen Dykan said that the "Zmist" journalist was the only mass media representative at the meeting. The editor of "Zmist" confirmed that there were indeed no representatives of other media. According to Dykan, the reporters were not prevented from being present during the rest of the meeting, but were asked to leave for the discussion of classified, secret information.

"We were not opposed to journalists covering the events and the work at the City Council. This holds true for this meeting as well. But it was a meeting where important military decisions were made. As long as martial law is in place, we have no right to disclose the units for which the goods were being purchased; no right to say what and in what quantities we were buying. I asked the chairwoman, Kateryna Yamshchykova, that the journalists walk out for the discussion of classified information, and it was agreed that after the meeting is over, we would provide answers to all the reporters' questions," Yevhen Dykan said.

Anastasia Dobryak, for her part, stresses that the reporter of her media outlet was forced to leave at the request of deputy Yevhen Dykan.

"No one objected, although there had been no announcement that the discussion of classified information was about to start. Moreover, the meeting was attended by deputies of various factions who do not have clearence to know about secret purchases, so they did not pass the special check. I don't know how they were going to discuss classified information at this meeting," commented the editor of "Zmist".

The Poltava City Council secretary and acting Mayor, Kateryna Yamshchykova, said in her comment to the IMI representative that the meeting was open. "However, at the meeting itself the participants said that a part of it should be held behind closed doors in order to explain the issues," she said.

According to her, the deputies did not know the context prior to considering the issue at the meeting. Kateryna Yamshchykova explained that they only knew about the letters from the military.

"This meeting, like many others, was a first for me personally. The present body of deputies had many questions regarding the confidentiality of information, our goal is to understand and reveal the information that would remove the unacceptable shadow of mistrust from the subject of procurements. The moment it was announced that the information would now be 'classified', we knew nothing about the context, but were nonetheless informed that it was. Therefore, for openness's sake, we held the meeting behind closed doors in part. After that, as promised, I summed up the results. This week I will write the appropriate appeals and letters, and we will be able to see the information in the same way as is done in most communities," said Yamshchykova.

She added that in the future they plan to establish communication with military units in such a way that Poltava citizens may see the information received from them. It is planned to send appropriate letters to establish open communication with all structural divisions that address the City Council with letters. This means that the city authorities plan to make purchases for the army transparently.

Kateryna Yamshchykova noted that at earlier meetings, the opposition deputies only saw the sums that would be allocated, and no information as to what they were allocated for, and how much, and for whom.

"We didn't know anything. I spoke about this repeatedly at sessions, and we could not help but support that, because it's about the army. We said that since it is all classified, everything is at the discretion of those who are making the purchases and on the bodies that are supposed to control them," she said.

So Yamshchykova initiated a meeting to figure this out: "Now we will disclose as much nformation as other communities do. A way has been found, but several letters need to be written for this."

IMI lawyer Roman Holovenko noted that only security issues or other topics with limited access can be discussed behind closed door, as stated in Clause 1, Part 2, Article 6 of the Law "On Access to Public Information".

"That is, if a meeting of a collegial body is to discuss multiple issues, then the usual approach is to discuss individual issues in private. But the status of this 'meeting' in itself is not clear, we don't know whether any event took place officially and whether it was a meeting of a collegial body at all," said Roman Holovenko.

Nadia Kucher, Kateryna Dyachuk

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