A Draft of Right to Information Act recently developed by the Government of Pakistan scored 146 points in the global Right to Information Rating (RTI). In case the draft is adopted, Pakistan will be 11 points ahead of Serbia, country with the highest RTI rating (135 scores). A well-known non-governmental organization Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) states that this document is an excellent example of Freedom of Information Legislation.
It should be noted that current Georgian Legislation on Access to Public Information scores 97 points on the RTI global rating and holds 32nd place among the 102 assessed countries. In order to improve existing regulations the Government of Georgia has undertaken an obligation to adopt a new Freedom of Information Law within the auspices of Open Government Partnership (OGP). During 2014, with the assistance of Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF) and together with the Ministry of Justice of Georgia active work was undertaken in order to develop a draft of the Law on Freedom of Information. The document was prepared by the working group with the involvement and active participation of the experts of IDFI. The experience of developed countries in the area of access to public information was taken into account. In this regard, we find it is highly important to compare the existing legislation of Georgia and the draft of Freedom of Information Act with the draft law prepared by the Government of Pakistan. This will contribute to further improvement of the draft of Freedom of Information Act in Georgia. Below we present recommendations which in case if taken into consideration, will ensure that Georgian legislation is compatible with the world’s best practices.
Definition of Public Information
To avoid classifying public information by referring to the argument that the information was not obtained while conducting public duties, it is essential to define public information as the information held, received, processed, created or sent in any form by a public institution or civil servant.
Indicating the name of applicant should not be mandatory in a FOI request. Public bodies should have the obligation to provide requested information even when only the address of the applicant is indicated without mentioning the name of the applicant.
Form of Receiving Public Information
Public bodies should only be allowed not to disclose information in the form requested if creating the document in different format would be associated with disproportionately high costs, lead to the termination of the function of an administrative body or damage the document.
The Public Interest Test
We believe that, administrative bodies should have the obligation to provide requested information even if public interest simply outweighs (not significantly) the benefits of classifying information.
Exceptions from Access to Public Information
It is advisable for Georgian legislation not to include discretionary power of public institutions not to disclose requested information of unreasonable volume. Such discretion contains high risk and could be misused by public authorities.
Period of Limitation of Classified Information
It is preferable to include the provisions in the draft of the Law on Freedom of Information on disclosing secret data after the lapse of certain period of limitation.
It is important that every public servant which is in any way involved in the process of releasing public information is protected with the immunity from the prosecution.
Improving Qualifications of Public Servants
It is desirable for the Georgian legislation to recognize the obligation of administrative authorities to ensure the training of civil servants on the issues of access to information.
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