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Salus populi suprema lex . Marcus Tullius Cicero

Legal grounds for restricting access to information

Issue on access to information is regulated by different legal acts in Ukraine, including: Constitution of Ukraine, laws of Ukraine "On Information", "On access to public information", "On State Secrets" and others. An important component of the legislation on access to information, including information of public interest, is the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, which are a source of law in Ukraine.

In accordance with part 1 of article 6 of the Law of Ukraine "On Access to Public Information" information of limited access is: 1) confidential information, 2) secret information, and 3) information for official use.

Restricting access to information under the law can be done according to the following standards (for the following purpose) (part 2 of article 6 of the Law of Ukraine "On Access to Public Information"):

1. solely in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public order, the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health, protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of confidential information, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary;

2. disclosure may cause substantial harm to those interests;

3. a harm from disclosure of the information outweighs the public interest in getting it.

According to part 5 of article 6 of the Law of Ukraine "On Access to Public Information" access to the following information cannot be limited: information about available public funds, possession, use or disposal of state, municipal property, including copies of relevant documents, conditions of receiving these funds or property, names, surnames of individuals and entities that received these funds or property. Complying with paragraph 2 of article 6 of this law (listed above), this provision does not apply to cases where the publication or disclosure of such information may harm the interests of national security, defense, investigation or prevention of crime.

Under part 6 of article 6 of the Law of Ukraine "On Access to Public Information" access to information contained in the declaration of assets, incomes, expenses and financial obligations, filed according the procedure established by the Law of Ukraine "On Prevention and Combating Corruption", cannot be restricted, accept information set in paragraph 7 of the notes of the attachment to this law.[1]

Also, according to the Law of Ukraine "On Information" (part 4 of article 21): the access to the following information cannot be restricted:

1. on the environment, quality of food and household items;

2. accidents, disasters, natural hazards and other emergencies that have occurred or may occur and threaten the safety of people;

3. about the health of the population, its standards of living, including food, clothing, housing, medical care and social security, as well as socio-demographic indicators, law enforcement, education and culture of the population;

4. on violations of human rights and freedoms of citizens;

5. on the illegal actions of state agencies, local governments and their officials and employees;

6. other information access to which cannot be restricted in accordance with the laws and international treaties of Ukraine ratified by the Parliament of Ukraine.

The Law of Ukraine "On Principles of Prevention and Combating Corruption” (part 2 of article 16) also contains requirements for transparency of information. Namely, the access to the following information cannot be restricted:

1. amounts, types of charitable and other assistance provided by individuals and corporations to the persons referred to in paragraph 1 of article 4 of this Law (subjects of corruption offenses - persons authorized to perform the functions of the state or local government);

2. the sizes, types of remuneration of persons referred to in paragraph 1 of article 4 of this Law (subjects of corruption offenses - persons authorized to perform the functions of the state or local government) and gifts (donations), received by these persons for the transaction that are subjects to obligatory state registration.

The important clause of part 7 of article 6 of the Law of Ukraine "On Access to Public Information" envisages that limited access concerns the information, not the document. So, if the document contains information access to which is restricted, access to the opened information of this document should be provided.

Attributing information to state secret is based on the decisions of state expert on secrets to classify information as state secret. State secret - is information of restricted access in accordance with part 2 of article 6 of the Law "On Access to Public Information" (see above), the disclosure of which may harm a person, society and state. Secret information contains state, professional and banking secrecy, information on secret investigation and other secret under law. Procedure for access to secret information in addition to the Law "On Access to Public Information" is defined by special regulations (Law of Ukraine "On of State Secrets," List of state secret information, etc.).

Attributing information to confidential information may be carried by physical and legal persons (except of the state authorities). Restricting access to official (service/insider) information (information for official use) is done by state authorities.

According to part 1 of article 7 of the Law of Ukraine "On Access to Public Information" information referred to in part 1, 2 of the article 13 of this Law, cannot be classified as confidential, and it is:

- Information of governmental agencies;

- Information of entities that are financed from the state budget - concerning information on the use of budget funds;

- Information of people if they perform the delegated powers of the authorities under the law or contract, including the provision of educational, health, social and other public services - in respect of information relating to the execution of their duties;

- Information of entities that occupy a dominant position in the market and are have special or exclusive rights, or are natural monopolies - in relation to information about the conditions of supply of goods and services and their prices;

- Information about the state of the environment;

- Information about the quality of food and household items;

- Information on accidents, disasters, natural hazards and other emergencies that have occurred or may occur and threaten the health and safety of citizens;

- Other information of public interest (socially relevant information).

According to article 9 of the Law of Ukraine "On Access to Public Information" the following information can be ascribed to official (insider/service) information of limited access:

1. contained in the documents of governmental agencies that make up the interdepartmental correspondence, memoranda, recommendations, if they are associated with development of the operation strategy of an institution or exercising of control functions, supervisory functions of public authorities, decision-making and precede public debate and/or decision-making;

2. collected during operational, counterintelligence activities in the field of defense, which is not classified as state secrets.

Documents containing official (insider/service) information of limited access are stamped "for official use only". The “List of information for official use” of governmental and local authorities and other public authorities, including the ones that exercise delegated powers, cannot be restricted in access (part 2, 3 of article 9 of the Law "On Access to Public Information"). Thus, restrictions of access to information by state authorities can be done only after attributing of certain information to special List, approved by authorities.


Prepared by Mariana Bulgakova.



[1] Paragraph 7 of the notes of the attachment to the Law "On Principles of Prevention and Combating Corruption": information about the registration number of taxpayer registration card or series and number of passport of Ukraine, which are specified in positions 1 (concerning the declarant) and 4 (on the family members of the declarant ), and on the location of the object specified in positions 2 (residence - area code, region, district, town, street, number of: home, housing, apartments of declarant) and 23-34 (property owned, lease or other right to use by the declarant / family members declaring: land, houses, apartments, garden (cottage) house, garage, other real estate.