Institute for Mass Information Initiates De-criminalization of Journalists’ Requests for Public Information
January 27 – The Institute of Mass Information’s (IMI) legal department drafted amendments to the Ukrainian Criminal Code which would remove criminal liability for public officials refusing journalists’ requests for public information from state institutions.
The amendments apply to Articles 171 and 345.1 of the Criminal Code and are supported by the Council of Europe. They should now be submitted to the Verkhovna Rada for its consideration, however, IMI does not provide any details about timing.
According to IMI lawyer Roman Holovenko, “It (criminal liability) causes bureaucracy in the National Police of Ukraine. Besides, usually, there is no real public danger in such cases.” Holovenko added that Article 171 (which addresses preventing journalists from their professional activities) should be shifted from the Criminal Code to the Administrative Code.
One year ago, the Verkhovna Rada approved Criminal Code amendments holding public officials more accountable if they restrict journalists from conducting their work. The Rada amended the law so that denying journalists access to information is punished by a modest fine – the equivalent of $32 – or arrest and detention for up to six months and possible imprisonment for up to three years.
Media lawyers have warned that criminalizing access to public information is unnecessary because there is no danger to society and enforcement is difficult.
More on the Institute for Mass Information website in Ukrainian.