Ukrainian law “On access…” ranks 17th-19th in the world this year. When is it to return to the TOP-10?

November 13, 2020

Global Right to Information Rating assessed and analyzed the provisions of Ukrainian legislation “On Access to Public Information”, as a result of which Ukraine scored 115 out of 150 points and ranked 17th-19th (three countries have the same score).

As we know, the Ukrainian Law “On Access to Public Information” has long been one of the top ten laws of the world on access to information in the Global Right to Information Rating, which means that our law was developed in accordance with the best global standards, which, in particular, was embodied in the Model Law on Access to Information, developed by the world’s best experts and the international organization Article 19.

However, time passed, other countries adopted new progressive laws and gradually the Ukrainian law dropped to the 29th place. Thanks to the amendments to the law, our ranking has improved again.

What is missing from the Ukrainian access legislation to return to the top 10?

This was stated by Tetiana Oleksiiuk, a media lawyer, an expert on access to public information, who worked on updating the Global Right to Information Rating:

First of all, the introduction of an independent, authorized and effective supervisory body in the field of access to information. How this happens, be it through the establishment of a new institution such as the Information Commissioner or the Information Commission, or by strengthening the existing institution, the Office of the Ombudsman, is not so important.

The main issue is to ensure the key requirements for such a body: it must be independent (i.e. appointed or elected through a transparent procedure, have a set of guarantees and powers that will protect the officials of this body from administrative pressure and the threat of dismissal for political reasons), authorized (i.e. have the full range of powers necessary to perform their functions, in other words, its powers should be broad enough to ensure effective operation) and effective (this refers to the proper staffing and financial support of this body, which will ensure the rapid adoption and inevitable implementation of its decisions).

Discussions on the establishment of such a body have been going on for a long time, back in 2016 the Office of the Council of Europe supported the development of an analysis of Ukrainian legislation and international practice in this area, set out in the Report of the Directorate of Information Society DGI (2016) SASG/2016/07

Hence now, when active work is underway to develop draft amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On Access to Public Information” and the Law of Ukraine “On Personal Data Protection”, it is high time to think about the establishment of such a supervisory authority.

The work on the analysis also focuses on some small, purely technical, but nevertheless annoying shortcomings of our law.

For example, our law does not oblige the public information manager to send confirmation that the request has been received and accepted to the requester upon the request receipt. This is the so-called “autoresponder” rule. All requesters are familiar with the situation when they send a request by e-mail and are waiting for a response, not even knowing if their request has been received. A week later they start calling and find out that their request “was not received, was missed” and so on.

By the way, some government agencies are already successfully practicing auto-reply with a request registration number for inquiries sent by e-mail. This is successfully used by the Ministry of Digital Transformation. I do not think that providing an auto-reply to electronic requests will place a heavy burden on managers; however, it will significantly help the requesters.

The material was published in the publication Dostup do Pravdy (Access to the Truth)..