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Freedominfo: Ukrainian Parliament Adopts Access to Information Law

January 19, 2011

The Verkhovna Rada.

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Ukraine’s parliament Jan. 13 easily adopted new laws on access to public information.

Some 408 out of the 433 members of parliament present voted in favor, well above the 226 votes necessary for approval.

The new law, expected to be signed by President Viktor Yanukovych, mandates that public officials voluntarily disclose information while also rules for requesting information, all subject to various limitations.

According to a description on the official site of the Vehovna Rada, bill No.  2763, entitled “On Access to Public information” defines public information as “the information displayed and fixed in the documents by any means and on any data carriers, received or created by the state authority subjects while fulfilling their duties as required by the Law or the information in the ownership of the state authority subjects, and other public information administrators defined by this Law.”

The law would guarantee the right of access to the public information, stating that “the right to access the public information is supported by the obligation of the information administrators to give and promulgate information as public, unless otherwise is provided by the legislation of Ukraine,” according to the Rada website.

The other bill, No. 7321, passed concurrently, “regulates creation, collection, access to, storage, use, distribution, protection, and safety of information.” The description says further that the law “sets the fundamentals of the information relations and state information policy.”

According to a Ukranian News Agency report and other media accounts,  the legislation distinguishes types of public information with restricted access: confidential, secret and insider information. Also, access can be restricted to protect:  the national security, the territorial integrity or civic order for the purpose of preventing disorder or offenses, the population’s health or safety, other peoples’ reputation or rights, and information obtained in a confidential way.

Non-disclosure would be permitted if the release of the information risks causing more harm than benefit to the public.

The law would permit disclosure of documents, with redactions.

Penalties for not disclosing information are included.

The law would go in the effect three months after publication.

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