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Zaporizhzhia City Council closes access to all its decisions

17.08.2022, 15:13

A few days after Zaporizhzhia City Council's last meeting, which was held on July 27, officials closed access to the Council's draft decisions, providing no explanation. journalist Elmira Shagabutdynova informed the regional representative of the IMI about this. City Council member Andriy Sohorin also posted about this on his Facebook page.

On August 13, he posted a screenshot of a chat message where deputies were being informed that "according to the Mayors March 31, 2022 order 'On the temporary restriction of access to public information during martial law,' access to public information is being limited, which is why ZCC's draft decisions will be submitted to this chat for perusal every Tuesday."

According to journalist Elmira Shagabutdynova, from now on, journalists cannot access information on the allocation of budget funds or changes to city programs related to healthcare, housing and communal services, ecology, and many other things.

"In recent months, decisions approved at the meetings have not been published at all. First, they did not publish the orders of the Council's temporary acting Chairman, and then they stopped making absolutely all draft decisions public. Moreover, the officials even removed all those decisions that had been published earlier, in June–July and in late May. Now the latest documents on the website are dated May 17," she said.

According to her, the decisions related to the city's activities, people's safety, and distribution of taxpayers' money should be transparent at all times, because there are risks that officials may exploit these restrictions for their own benefit.

"For example, we have already seen that during the war, the City Council's Culture and Tourism Department purchased generators at almost twice the market price, and "City Heating Networks" planned to pay over a hundred thousand hryvnias for Columbian coffee at a crazy markup, and only the mass media publicity made it possible to avoid this," she said.

According to Roman Holovenko, a media lawyer at the Institute of Mass Information, such a decision of the Zaporizhzhia City Council is illegal.

"In the Law 'On Access to Public Information,' force majeure circumstances are only mentioned as the reason for delaying request fulfilments (Part 6, Article 22), not the proactive disclosure of information by the administration body (Article 15). It is clear that such an approach on City Council's part does not comply with the law. If their draft decisions contain certain information that the enemy may exploit, then the decision should be published with redactions, with relevant words, phrases, images, etc. omitted (Part 8, Article 6 of the Law 'On Access to Public Information')," the media lawyer said.

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