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New law will prevent journalists from publishing personal information

(IMI/IFEX) - On 26 June 2010, Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich signed into law the "Personal Information Protection" bill. The law, which was voted on by parliament on 1 June, will come into force in January 2011.

The new law will "tie the hands of journalists" and allow arbitrary measures to be used against them, said Volodymyr Yavorskyy, executive director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Union and the Ukrainian service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. A journalist will be able to gather information that is generally available but cannot publish it until the person in question has given consent for publication. For example, journalists will not be able to publish personal information about an individual, including a person's first or last name, without the person's authorization.

Yavorskyy stressed that European law distinguishes between personal information of a general nature and sensitive personal information, such as information on a politician's health condition. "In regards to the European laws, there is a clear principle that says that the press can disseminate personal and identifiable information about a public person if society demands to know about it. That means, for instance, that if there is information that a head of state is sick, then the public has to know. People want to know if they are voting for a healthy president or a sick one," said Yavorskyy. "But from now on, it will be impossible to publish a report about an MP's mental illness because the journalist needs the MP's consent to publish this information."

Yavorskyy added that this law is contrary to Ukrainian legislation, namely the law titled "On information", because firstly, any personal and identifiable information could be withdrawn from print, and secondly, any journalist or media outlet could be labeled "inconvenient" and punished for having published personal data.

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