It is possible to protect your right to information even if you have got a refusal. Another proof has recently been given by the Road trade union of the South-Western Railway (hereinafter – the Requester).
The Road trade union activists have requested from Ukrainian railway information on the amount of money that has been allocated to all the road trade unions of the South-Western Railway in 2015-2016, in particular, the funds allocated to the healthcare, medical services, social guarantees and mass culture, physical culture, etc.
CEDEM has provided the Requester with legal advice on the preparation of the request before it was submitted to Ukrainian railways. The fact that the request related to the disposal of budget funds was defined as the main argument to provide access to such an information as it cannot be subject to restriction according to the law.
Nevertheless, the Road trade union`s request has been denied. According to Ukrainian railway, it is an information administrator only for the information related to its natural monopoly: the conditions of product supply and its prices.
According to article 13 of the Law on access to public information natural monopolies are indeed information administrators of the abovementioned information. However, its obligations are not limited only to this information.
CEDEM advised the Requester to file a claim to the court. The legal support of the case was provided by the Fund of protection of the right to access to information which has been interested in the case as it concerned a systemic misunderstanding of natural monopolies of their duty to provide public information. The claim has therefore been drafted and filed.
In view of the fact that the Requester has openly stated its intention to refer to the court, Ukrainian railway has sent another letter to the Road trade union. This time the latter has received all the requested information 2 months after the previous denial.
This reaction was in our opinion caused by the understanding that its denial was unlawful and if the case was to be considered in the court it will be bound to provide the information and, additionally, to reimburse legal costs to the claimant.
This case shows that even if your request has been denied it is highly important to use all the possible means to get the requested information: to send additional requests, to appeal to Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights and to file the claim to the court. It will not be a full guarantee of getting information. Still, it is important to protect yourself the right to access public information which is provided by the law.