On April 3, 2023, the Public Defender's report on the Situation in Human Rights and Freedoms in Georgia during 2022 was published, Chapter 7 of which reviews the current environment in terms of freedom of information in the country. According to the report, the main obstacle to the proper realization of the right to access to public information is the existing outdated legislation, which cannot meet the needs at this stage.
The document mentions that, despite the recommendations of the Public Defender, the Government of Georgia has not prepared a draft of a special law regulating freedom of information and the absence of an effective supervisory body for the realization of the right to access to public information remains an important challenge. It should be emphasized here that IDFI has been calling for the need for special regulation for years and has been advocating the creation of a specialized body (Commissioner of Freedom of Information or similar institution) to oversee the release of public information.
During the reporting period, the Public Defender’s Office of Georgia considered a total of 39 applications with respect to the accessibility of public information, and the majority of them were related to the public institutions providing public information in violation of the timeframes established by law and/or about the incomplete release of the information. In order to illustrate a similar problem, the report cites IDFI's research on the access to public information by media representatives. The Public Defender points out that the existing challenges related to the availability of public information threaten the effectiveness of media activities.
According to the report, the Public Defender reviewed the application regarding the availability of the Ministry's claim and the first instance court's decision regarding the ongoing litigation between the Ministry of Defense of Georgia and the former Minister of Defense of Georgia - Davit Kezerashvili. The court administration refused to issue a first instance court’s decision stating that the decision has not yet entered into legal force. In this regard, the Public Defender points out that the law was misinterpreted in order to close the information and that the current legislation does not provide access to court decisions related to the official activities of former and current officials.
The report discusses the issue of effective resolution of disputes related to access to public information, and to highlight the problems in this regard, it cites IDFI's analytics, according to which the long period of consideration of the case in the judicial body deprives public information of its basic value, which may be decisive for the person concerned. In recent years, the declining statistics of cases filed in court regarding the release of public information may indicate a failed mechanism of judicial control as a right protection mechanism.
The Public Defender also addresses the issue of recognizing the Council of Europe Convention “On Access to Official Documentation" of June 18, 2009 as binding for the country and states that the preparation process of the proposal defined by the Law of Georgia on International Treaties of Georgia has been in progress for more than five years.
The Public Defender's report once again highlighted the need to address the issues that IDFI has been pointing out for years. Unfortunately, IDFI’s study, which assesses the quality of access to public information in the country, indicates that the response rate from public institutions in 2022 significantly deteriorated compared to previous years and amounted to 58%, which is the lowest result since 2010. IDFI once again calls on the relevant authorities to reform the legislation regulating freedom of information and to create an effective supervisory institution to guarantee the access to public information, and before the adoption of legislative changes, to ensure full access to public information within the established period.
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