In July 2016, Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) started implementing a project titled Increasing Access to Court Decisions in Georgia. Within the framework of this project, the organization prepared and published a number of research and analytical papers aiming at studying the existing situation in Georgia and the best international standards regulating this topic.
Balancing the interests of freedom of information and privacy when disclosing court decisions is the subject of the academic paper - Court Decisions in Georgia: How to Negotiate the Minefield Between Access and Respect for Privacy - published by the executive director of Center for Law and Democracy (Canada) – Toby Mendel. The paper was published in March 2017, after which it was translated and made accessible to all relevant stakeholders in Georgia.
Below we present the translation of the document prepared by Article 19 (the UK) - The Global Principles on Protection of Freedom of Expression and Privacy. The organization has extensive experience of working on the topics of freedom of information and privacy in cooperation with such international organizations as the UN, OSCE, Amnesty International etc.
This document is part of ARTICLE 19’s International Standards Series, an ongoing effort to elaborate in greater detail the implications of protecting and promoting the right to freedom of expression in different thematic areas. These Principles are the result of a process of study, analysis, and drawing on the extensive experience and work of ARTICLE 19’s regional offices and partner organisations in many countries around the world.
The paper starts by highlighting that freedom of expression and privacy are essential foundations for open and democratic societies, and among the basic conditions for its progress, and for each individual’s self-fulfilment. For democracy, accountability and good governance to thrive, freedom of expression and opinion must be respected and protected. The same is true of the right to privacy, which also acts as a powerful bulwark against state and corporate power in the modern age.
The paper describes 30 core principles of freedom of expression and privacy, which are particularly relevant for Georgia. Principle 14 sets the standards of Open Justice, according to which ‘States should guarantee in their national legislation, and protect and promote in their practices, the principle of open justice or publicity of all judicial actions. This principle demands that the public have a right to know the identity of the parties involved in court proceedings, including suspects in criminal investigations, defendants and witnesses in criminal proceedings, and private parties in civil proceedings; it also implies that court hearings must be held in public and that filming, recording, broadcasting, using social media, and the taking of photographs should be permitted during court proceedings'.
Exceptions from the principle of Open Justice should be unambiguously stipulated in the legislation and should not be leaving space for wide interpretation. In addition, any legal basis restricting the principle of open justice must be necessary, proportionate and legitimate.
Problems linked with access to court decisions in Georgia have become the subject of active discussion as a result of IDFI’s activities. Representatives of different state entities have been highlighting that they recognize existing problems in the legislation and stressed that in the process of amendments fair balance between privacy and freedom of information should be struck.
The very subject of freedom of information and privacy, and striking a fair balance between the two, is closely discussed in the Principles given bellow (see the full text of the paper).
The document was translated into Georgian by the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) within the auspices of the project Increasing Access to Court Decisions in Georgia. The project is supported by the East-West Management Institute (EWMI) under the Promoting Rule of Law in Georgia (PROLoG) Program, funded by the USAID.
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