Access to Public Information
Company Doe v. Public Citizen
Closed Expands Expression
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The Nevsky District Court of St. Petersburg in Russia ordered a government agency to disclose files relating to its handling of a disciplinary complaint to the individual who made the initial complaint. The Court held that the only information that could be withheld by the agency was personal information.
This case analysis was contributed by Right2Info.org.
Marina Machneva, a Russian citizen, complained to the head of St. Petersburg City Department of the Federal Bailiff Service about actions of officials of a subordinate district department. As a result of her complaints several administrative inspections were undertaken and some district officials were subjected to disciplinary measures. After receiving a letter notifying her about these actions, Machneva asked the department to provide her with the inspection materials, including resolutions on the results of internal office inspections held in the administration of the St. Petersburg City Department, as well as written statements of the inspected officials. The department refused to provide the documents, explaining that administrative inspection materials are confidential and should not be provided to third parties.
Machneva then applied to the Nevsky District Court for access to the documents.
The Nevsky District Court had to determine whether Machneva was entitled to the documents to which she had sought access.
The Court examined the constitutional and legislative framework and held that government bodies must guarantee the possibility for everyone to have access to materials that affect their rights, and there is a constitutional right to seek and receive information without hindrance. The Court therefore concluded that Machneva was entitled to those parts of the requested files that did not contain personal information because she had a right to know details of actions that were taken as a result of her official complaint.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
This case is one of the first in Russia in which a citizen successfully defended her right to access information concerning the administrative review of a complaint she had filed. The Nevsky District Court of St. Petersburg made it clear that, if materials included personal data, an applicant was nonetheless entitled to part of the information, assuming that personal information could be segregated from the non-personal information.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
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