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You're reading: Fighting for the right to know

Four representatives of the parliamentary majority
decided to legally
prohibit
citizens
from making copies of government documents, as well as to adopt an
obligatory payment “at a stated time” for any documents exceeding
ten pages. In real terms, these allegedly technical changes are an
attempt to legitimize the practice of selectively responses to
citizens’ information request, and those requests regarding
officials’ property and income in particular.

That selective responses are
already an issue, and has been subject of research by the
national monitoring campaign aimed at investigating the way of life
of high-ranking officials, “Declarations without Decorations”
.
Their summer and
early fall has been devoted
to gathering data
on asset
declarations of
ministers, heads of regional administrations,
mayors of regional centers and their deputies. In
total, around 400 high officials’
declared assets
and income will
be
examined
by
civic
controllers
,
to see if they match those officials’ actual
lifestyles.

The first results of the civic
activists’ and bureaucrats’ communication are disappointing,
especially considering the fact that the openness of data in
officials’ declarations is guaranteed by not just one, but two laws
of Ukraine – “On Access to Public Information” and “On
Prevention and Combat of Corruption.”
Experienced bureaucrats systematically find more and more ways to
deny people their right to know. For instance, Lutsk City Council and
Mayor Mykola Romaniuk decided to classify information about the
general city plan, the salaries of council staff, and data on asset
declarations as
inside information (therefore, restricted for society)
.
According to the mayor’s opinion, disclosure of
this information “can lead to violation of a human’s
constitutional rights and freedoms, cause losses to the territorial
community, and inhibit the council’s work”. It is two minutes’
work for a lawyer to prove that this initiative of Lutsk’s mayor
goes against the law.

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