Access to Public Information
Dotcom Trading 121 (PTY) Ltd v. King
Closed Expands Expression
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The Supreme Court of Russia held that a requester does not need to provide reasons in order to have access to the government’s registry of normative legal acts, which are binding orders issued by Russian government agencies. The Ministry of Justice refused the petitioner’s request for access to the register on the basis that the 2005 Order of the Ministry of Justice No. 244 limited access to those who advance a “motivated written request”. The Court held that the right to access information presumes that citizens and organizations may search for and receive any information in any form, from any source, so long as conditions of federal law are met. The Court found that the Order violated the right to information protections found in the Federal Law and ruled that Section 8 of the Order was invalid insofar as it required a “motivated written request.”
This case analysis was contributed by Right2Info.org,
Daria Nazarova, a lawyer with the Institute for Information Freedom Development (called the Foundation for Information Freedom since 2011), sought free online access to the registry of normative legal acts, challenging the 2005 Order of the Ministry of Justice No. 244 which limited access to those who advance a “motivated written request.” Ms. Nazarova claimed that the Order violated the right to information protections found in Article 8(5) of the Federal law No. 149-FZ “on information, informational technologies and on the protection of information”, and Articles 8(3) and 10(4) of the Federal law No. 8-FZ “on providing access to information about the activity of government bodies and bodies of local governance.”
The Court held that the right to access information presumes that citizens and organizations may search for and receive any information in any form, from any source, so long as conditions of federal law are met. It referred to the Federal Law “On Information, Information Technologies, and Information Protection” from July 27, 2006, no. 149-FZ which “defines information as facts (evidence, data), notwithstanding the form in which they are presented”.
The Court went on to refer to Article 8 of the Federal Law “On Providing Access to Information on the Activities of Government Bodies and Bodies of Local Self-Government” which establishes a right for the users of information to receive truthful information and not to prove the necessity of the receipt of the requested information about the activity of government bodies and bodies of local governance, the access to which is not limited. The Court said that Part 5 of Article 8 extends this right to information about normative legal acts of bodies of local governance, that is, binding orders issued by Russian government agencies, and whoever wants to receive access to such information is not obliged to prove necessity (Part 5, Article 8).
The Court defined the relevant information about government bodies to include information created within the bounds of their powers, their territorial bodies, bodies or organizations of local governance, or any information submitted to the indicated body.
In light of these laws the Court held that Section 8 of the 2005 Order requiring a requester to submit a “motivated written request” to obtain information about additional information contained in the federal registry of normative legal acts violated the Federal Law “On Information, Information Technologies, and Information Protection” and was invalid insofar as it required a “motivated written request.”
However the Court rejected Ms. Nazarova’s arguments that Section 8 of the Order limited access to information on the Minister of Justice’s website. It said that Article 10 of the Federal law No. 8-FZ regulates access to information about the activity of government bodies and bodies of local governance that is published on the internet and that the law presumes that government bodies and local governance bodies use the internet to publish information about their activity and that they create official websites with email addresses through which visitors can request information. The Court said that, in these circumstances, it follows that lawgivers do not exclude requests for information about the activities of the government bodies that are published on the internet.
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