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Verkhovna Rada passes the bill on soldiers' information rights and restrictions in first reading

23.02.2024, 17:20

The Verkhovna Rada passed for finalization the draft bill No. 10313, which defines soldiers' rights and restrictions on sharing information.

On February 22, the parliament passed the draft bill "On Amendments to Some Laws of Ukraine Regarding Ensuring the Rights of Soldiers and Police Officers to Social Protection" in the first reading.

Article 8 of the draft bill has been supplemented with Article 8-2 "Implementation of servicepeople's right to information". This article legally defines soldiers' right to freely receive, use, and share information in accordance with the Law of Ukraine "On Information" and Ukraine's other laws. However, such activities should take into account the restrictions established by this bill.

The restrictions defined in the Article are as follows: soldiers have no right to distribute data that allows to identify (in particular, by processing, analysis and generalization using special software)

  • the geolocation of military facilities, military units and military personnel as they perform their tasks;
  • the essence of these tasks and the forces and means involved in their performance

in mass media or open access information systems (online and in other public telecom networks).

The explanatory note to the draft bill states that it was developed to improve the mechanisms for ensuring certain rights of military personnel, including the right to information.

Previously, the Institute of Mass Information wrote in our article "Soldiers' right to collect and share information: the new draft bill" that the draft bill proposes to explicitly specify soldiers' right to receive and share information, in particular through the mass media, which was previously only mentioned in law indirectly and saw constant attempts to cancel it under one pretext or another. If this article comes into effect, any commander or other person prohibiting a soldier to talk to a journalist will be violating the law.

At the same time, IMI expert Ivanka Melnyk pointed out that the list of information that cannot be shared by soldiers is outlined very vaguely, and therefore very unsuccessfully.

"A specific ban on posting photos and videos with geolocation data, disclosing the location of military units, etc., would be completely understandable. In this way, yes, the draft bill in its current form will significantly limit soldiers' information rights – but there is hope that the deputies will correct this after a discussion, especially if the situation will be monitored by the public," the IMI expert wrote.

The IMI article remains relevant, and our assessment remains unchanged, since the Verkhovna Rada did not change Article 8-2 when passing the draft bill in the first reading.

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