February 19, 2013 Serhiy Leshchenko, deputy chief editor of the online edition “Ukrainian Truth”, applied to the European Court of Human Rights in order to protect the right of access to information.European Court has become the last resort by which the journalist tries to get information about the sale of land in Mezhyhirya.
Applying to the European Court, Serhiy Leshchenko aimed to appeal decisions of national courts in the case of sale of state land in Mezhyhirya to the President of Ukraine. The seller – Vyshhorodska District State Administration – as well as the courts of all instances indicated that information on this agreement cannot be granted to the journalist, although the law provides absolute transparency of data on management of state property. Litigation in Ukraine lasted from August 2011 to November 2012.
Statement by Mr. Leshchenko to the European Court based on Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which guarantees the right to freely receive and impart information.
February 20 the journalist and civic activists who support him, held a press conference to highlight the importance of this appeal.
Serhiy Leshchenko expressed his opinion on the case:
‘Mezhyhirya is a taboo topic in Ukraine. When a state institution receives a request on this subject, there happens to be precoronary of an official responsible for access to information. All information about this transaction classified under any false excuses and in contravention of the law’, – says Mr. Leshchenko. ‘Our goal – sooner or later the truth about Mezhyhirya withdrawal from state ownership must be provided, even if it takes to address the European Court of Human Rights’.
Legal support to Serhiy Leshchenko in his appeal to the European Court is provided by the Fund of protection of the right of access to information established by Media Law Institute together with International Renaissance Foundation. Representative of the journalist in the European Court is Attorney Edward Markov.
Taras Shevchenko, director of the Media Law Institute stated that legislation regarding access to information gives clear grounds to demand the requested information, but in practice this is extremely difficult to achieve.
‘Working on the Law of Ukraine “On access to public information,” we were able to lay in its text a progressive norm that “it cannot be restricted to access information about … management of state, municipal property, including copies of relevant documents.” Unfortunately, judges ignore the direct provision of the law, claiming that they protect the private life of the President of Ukraine. We are confident that we will get a positive decision of the European Court, because, according to its practice, a public entity must be open to the public at most’, – said Taras Shevchenko.
Opinion about the importance of fair court decisions in cases of access to information was expressed by Roman Romanov, director of the program “Rule of Law” from the International Renaissance Foundation:
‘Practical implementation of the Law of Ukraine “On access to public information” is an important task of the authorities, test for the effectiveness of reforms and an opportunity to get public trust. When representatives of the President on the ground do not promote realization of the right of access to information – the court must help them. And if this task cannot be solved by Ukrainian court, it is considerable to apply to European Court of Human Rights. Decisions of the subject of authority on transfer of the ownership of land should be available undeniably’.
Press conference on the application of the journalist to the European Court of Human Rights was held within the project “Strengthening the Fund of protection of the right of access to information.” The aim of this project is to ensure judicial protection of the rights of journalists to access information through the development of the Fund of protection of the right of access to information. The project is implemented by the public organization “Institute of Media Law” with the support of the Program “Mass Media” under International Renaissance Foundation. More about the program: http://www.irf.ua/