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"Syla Pravdy" journalist wins lawsuit against the Polissya Forestry Office over salary data

22.03.2024, 11:44

The Volyn District Administrative Court satisfied the claim by Oksana Petruk, editor of the Investigative Journalism Center "Syla Pravdy", against the state-owned company "Lisy Ukrainy".

This is stated in the March 13, 2024 judgement by the Volyn District Administrative Court, "Syla Pravdy" reports.

The court ruled that the company unlawfully withheld information about the Polissya Forestry Office staff list and the salaries of their officials from the public, refusing to answer a request.

"Lisy Ukrainy" representatives claimed that such information is of no public interest and that the media outlet was trying to imitate it.

The court disagreed with the company's position and obliged them to provide an answer.

As the media outlet notes, throughout 2023, officials of the Volyn forestry industry were involved in criminal cases related to illegal logging and money laundering, and the deputy head of the Polissya Forestry Office, Vitaliy Sukhovych, was taken into custody for illicit enrichment.

The searches of his home revealed gold bars, weapons, and $4 million in cash.

Furthermore, as early as 2020, the Investigative Journalism Center "Syla Pravdy" recorded that the chief forester of Volyn, Oleksandr Kvatyrko, uses cars that are not listed in his property declarations while living in a house that has stood many years without being officially put into operation. This prompted the journalists to ask about the staff list and salaries of the Polissya Forestry Office employees.

However, the company replied that they were not the managers of such information. The journalists then wrote to the management of "Lisy Ukrainy", which the Polissya Forestry Office is a subdivisiion of. The state-owned company also decided not to provide this information. "Syla Pravdy" filed another request, appealing to public interest. However, the editors received no answers even then.

After that, the media outlet sued.

On March 13, 2024, the judge of the Volyn District Administrative Court, Victor Valyukha, ruled that the refusal to answer the information request was unlawful and obliged the state-owned company "Lisy Ukrainy" to provide an answer.

According to the ruling, the salaries of the Polissya Forestry Office management are of interest to the public, and their publication will have exclusively positive consequences for both the state and the company itself.

"Taking into account the circumstances of this case and the identity of the requester, who is a journalist, the court came to a convincing conclusion that the information requested by the plaintiff regarding the staff list and salaries of the managers and employees of the Polissya Forestry Office as a structural unit of the SOAC 'Lisy Ukrainy' is of public interest (that is, socially necessary information), since the dissemination of such information contributes to the transparency of the specified enterprise, the prevention of corruption, and will provide the public with legal grounds for obtaining reliable and complete information about the funds spending by the state-owned company," the judgement reads.

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