Access to Public Information by the Media: Legislation v. Reality

News | Research | Rule of Law, Human Rights and Freedom of Media | Report 4 November 2022

Statistical Findings of Obtaining Information from Public Institutions


- Only around 12% of journalists were able to obtain public information in full within the time limit stipulated by the law.


- In 50% of cases, the request for public information was not satisfied or remained unanswered. In the rest of the cases, public information was issued in full or in part.


- Excluding the cases where the request was left unanswered (about 25% of the applications), it took an average of 16 calendar days for a public institution to issue a response letter to the request.


- Administrative complaints are usually not satisfied, but in about 40% of cases it became possible to obtain the information in full, even as the complaint remained unresolved.


- In the case of the use of administrative complaints, it took an average of 35 calendar days to receive information.


- The courts have not made any decisions on the lawsuits filed within the framework of the project. It takes an average of 2.5 years to conclude a public information dispute in the general court system.


- The courts extended the standard term of court review by 5 months for 100% of the complaints received in the proceedings, citing the special complexity of the disputes (including cases in which the administrative body did not respond to the public information request or the administrative complaint at all).


- During the project, the number of lawsuits filed by IDFI with the court of first instance on issues related to requests for public information over the course of 7 months was almost twice as high as the total number of similar lawsuits filed throughout Georgia during the first 9 months of 2021.


Substantive Sindings: Systemic Problems of Obtaining Public Information by the Media


- Public institutions, in most cases, either violated the deadlines for providing public information stipulated by the legislation of Georgia or left public information requests unanswered.


- Oftentimes, public institutions provide the requested information in an incomplete form and do not justify why the requested information is not provided, which hinders the proper use of the right to appeal.


- There is a different approach in considering administrative complaints across public institutions. Some public institutions do not consider administrative complaints and believe that they should be appealed only in court.


- Practice indicates that, in order to effectively obtain public information, knowledge of the relevant field/business process and/or legal assistance is required. This is mainly due to the strictly formal assessment of the content of the request by public institutions.


- The project identified cases where public institutions indicate that they do not process information in the requested form and do not provide information in the forms as it is stored in the public institution.


- In some cases, public institutions do not provide information based on legal arguments that are not derived from the law.


- The practice of "redacting information" is necessary to ensure the proportionality of restrictions on the right to receive public information, although this practice is only applicable to public information containing personal data.


- There are problematic public institutions that do not respond at all to public information requests or to corresponding complaints (for example, the Government of Georgia).


Substantive Findings: Normative/Systemic Problems of Obtaining Public Information


- The established practice in the Supreme Court creates significant problems in terms of obtaining public information from state companies;


- Public institutions interpret certain norms of the legislation of Georgia broadly and do not extend the legislation regulating freedom of information to public information containing specific content from documents processed on certain issues.


Main Findings with Regard to the Oversight of Breaches of the Right to Public Information


- In Georgia, there is no institution (e.g. a Freedom of Information Commissioner) that would provide effective administrative supervision over the implementation of the freedom of information legislation by public institutions.


- Court control over disputes related to freedom of information is ineffective due to terms of case review stipulated by the legislation, the violation of these terms, and the lack of effective procedural mechanisms.


- Reports submitted by public institutions to the Parliament of Georgia on issues related to freedom of information do not provide a complete picture of the systemic problems identified in terms of access to public information.


Systemic Problems and Their Possible Solutions


Within the framework of the project, it became clear that violations of clear requirements of the legislation by public institutions, as well as the indifferent attitude towards public information requirements, are the main obstacles to access to information with the state. The lack of effective control mechanisms is the main reason for the indifference, and in some cases, the lack of accountability of public institutions. The above runs in tandem with the challenges identified in terms of access to public information.


1. Created an effective external control mechanism (Commissioner of Freedom of Information) in Georgia.


2. Reduce the terms of consideration of lawsuits filed in court on issues of freedom of information and improve the procedural mechanisms for consideration of such lawsuits.


3. The Parliament of Georgia should use the oversight mechanisms provided for in the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament against the institutions that blatantly and likely intentionally violate the requirements of the legislation regulating freedom of information.




It was revealed during the course of the project that there are practical-normative problems of a systemic nature in terms of obtaining information on issues of interest to the media. Ignoring both formal and material requirements of the legislation regulating freedom of information is a regular occurrence.


The number of public institutions that attempt to comply with the requirements of the legislation as much as possible is exceptionally low. There is about a 12% probability that information on issues of interest to the media will be provided fully and within the timeframe stipulated in the law.


The degree of arbitrariness in public institutions is high. This may be due to the lack of effective judicial or external administrative control. In some cases, it appears that complete ignorance of public information requests is a proven practice of a public institution. The effectiveness of judicial oversight is significantly reduced by the length of timeframes stipulated by law for the consideration of a case, as well as by the courts’ disregard of these terms.


The systemic problems discussed above essentially worsen the quality of access to public information on matters of media interest. On a practical level, there is no expectation that the media will be able to obtain information on an issue of its interest within the timeframe stipulated by the law. The cases of compliance with the requirements of the legislation regulating freedom of information by a public institution are exceptional.



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