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Volyn Oblast Administration refuses to provide "Syla Pravdy" with information on issued permits for traveling abroad

15.03.2023, 10:44

The Volyn Oblast Administration refused to provide Center for Journalistic Investigations "Syla Pravdy" with the number of people who were issued permits to travel abroad.

Yuriy Horbach, director of the Center for Journalistic Investigations "Syla Pravdy", spoke to the IMI representative in Volyn oblast about this.

According to him, he sent two requests to the Oblast Administration on this topic.

"The first request, sent in early February, was simply declined, and that was it. Then I talked to the department staff to find out if the request needs to be adjusted in any way to get an effective response. After that, I sent a second request, taking into account what the OA employees told me. And I received an answer to some questions and a refusal to answer the others. At the moment, we have sent a complaint to the Human Rights Commissioner at the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, we will wait for a response, and then we will see how to proceed," said Yuriy Horbach.

In the first request he sent, Horbach requested scanned copies of applications by enterprises, institutions, and organizations for drivers carrying humanitarian aid or performing other important functions for the state to leave Ukraine, filed between 24.02.2022 and 31.01.2023. The journalist also asked for scanned copies of decisions on permitting drivers carrying humanitarian aid or performing other important functions for the state to leave Ukraine, made between 24.02.2022 and 31.01.2023.

"Syla Pravdy" has requested that the copies of the warrants be issued without the confidential or classified information that may be featured in them in order to independently calculate the statistics.

However, the Volyn Oblast Administration refused to provide such documents.

"Regarding the provision of scanned copies of orders, the request is not subject to satisfaction for the following reasons. The requested documents contain personal data. In accordance with the requirements of the Laws of Ukraine "On Protection of Personal Data" and "On Information", the disclosure of such information is possible only with the consent of the subject of personal data," replied the Volyn Oblast Administration.

Journalists only managed to find out that after a year of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Volyn Oblast Administration issued 209 permits granting drivers the right to travel outside Ukraine.

Due to the introduction of martial law in Ukraine, starting February 24, men eligible for conscription were restricted from traveling abroad. Certain categories of citizens are allowed to leave, including those who have been "booked" by enterprises, certain organizations and educational institutions. Also, drivers of logistics companies who have licenses for international cargo transportation, passenger transportation, and volunteer drivers of charity organizations can receive permission to cross the border. According to "Syla Pravdy", information about such drivers must be entered into the Ukrtranssecurity's data system "Shlyakh".

"Syla Pravdy" journalist Yuriy Horbach noted that the requested information is of significant public interest, because in Volyn, the cases of illegal border-crossing by potetial conscripts, in particular with the use of the "Shlyakh" system, have been more frequent lately, which he had previously wrote about. Some men, contrary to the stated purpose of their travel and to the state's requirements, do not return.

Roman Holovenko, a lawyer at the Institute of Mass Information, noted that the names of those who left are, of course, confidential information, unless the person in question is a public figure (in which case the public interest in revealing the name and protecting the person's privacy must be equally balanced).

"If it is simply about the number of people who left, then all it would take is to count the number in each of the permits, add up the total amount and pass it to the requester. This is not creation of new information and falls under the legislation on access to public information. The OA's answer seems manipulative," the lawyer noted.

Roman Holovenko noted that copies of the permits should be provided to the editors with the classified information removed from them (which is now Part 8 of Article 6 of the Law on Access).

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