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Rivne City Council official may be fined for withholding information from journalists

20.01.2023, 17:32

The Secretariat of the Verkhovna Rada Commissioner for Human Rights drew up an administrative report against a Rivne City Council official for withholding information about which of the Prosecutor's Office's employees have received real estate from the authority, Chetverta Vlada reports.

The report was about the head of the accounting and housing distribution department of the Rivne Council, Natalia Marshchivska. In the summer of 2022, she refused to provide this information to Antonina Torbich, a Chetverta Vlada journalist, citing martial law as an excuse.

The publication notes that the Verkhovna Rada put no martial law limitations on the Law "On Access to Public Information", which stipulates that access to information about the ownership, use, or disposal of state and communal property, namely to copies of relevant documents, as well as conditions of receiving these funds or property,  surnames, first names, patronymics of individuals and names of legal entities that received these funds or property, cannot be restricted.

The publication sent a second request, and when it was also declined, they filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commissioner.

Chetverta Vlada reports that the Commissioner's Secretariat did not immediately respond to the journalists' complaint properly. However, the situation changed after an online meeting about the wartime challenges to freedom of speech, organized by the non-governmental organization "Human Rights Platform", where media representatives and the Human Rights Commissioner's representative took part.

As the publication was told in the Rivne representative office of the Human Rights Commissioner's Secretariat, the administrative report was drawn up on November 23, 2022 under Article 212-3 of the Code of Administrative Offenses, i.e., for "unfounded classification of information as limited access information."

This administrative report is currently being reviewed by the Rivne City Court. If the court finds the official guilty, it should result in a fine ranging from UAH 425 to UAH 850.

We would like to remind you that this is not the only public information access issue that Chetverta Vlada journalists faced in 2022. Likewise, the City Council withheld information about entrepreneurs working in the city park, other City Councils refused to provide information about their top officials' salaries, and a court did not provide information on the progress of some cases.

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