On October 22 the “Institute for Development of Freedom of Information” (IDFI) held a special training for those concerned about the requesting public information issue. The meeting was held at the office of the Open Society Georgia Foundation and was opened by Giorgi Kldiashvili, the Director of the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information. Training was conducted by Thomas Blanton, Director of ”the National Security Archive” (the United States of America), Ivan Pavlov, Chairman of the“Institute for Information Freedom Development” (the Russian-Federation) and Gergana Zhuleva, Executive Director of ”Access to information Program” (Bulgaria).The training has revealed one of the main problems in the field which is the moderate public demand for requesting information from public agencies. Also, the speakers informed the audience about the procedures how to send freedom of information requests from Georgia to governmental organizations of the countries they represented.
Themain problem in accessing the public information from governmental agencies, according to the guests, is due to the lack of public awareness.
Another problem attributed to requesting public information is the public agencies' denial to provide public information or overdue provision of information. The situation in the United States, Thomas Blanton said, is similar. Officially organizations are to provide public information within 20 working days but when it comes to the national security-related documentation this term may linger up to a year or two. To obtain necessary information, according to Thomas Blanton, there are two ways: first - willful and permanent request until the goal is achieved, and the second - good circle acquaintances among the authorities. In the worst case application to the court is necessary to obtain the information needed. Mr. Blanton also presented to the audience the most interesting cases from the practice of the National Security Archive on freedom of information request. In addition the director of the National Security Archive recommends journalists to visit a useful link “EFFECTIVE FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) REQUESTING for EVERYONE” (http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nsa/foia/foia_guide.html) for easier access to public information.
In the course of the training all the three guests, on behalf of their organizations, expressed readiness to collaborate with Georgian journalists and provide any of them with the information needed.
Mr. Giorgi Kldiashvili informed the audience about the planned joint project initiated by the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information and the National Security Archivethat aims to collect declassified documents about Georgia that are kept in the US governmental organizations. The collected documents will be uploaded on the Institutes web-page “the Transparent Archives”, specially created for the Archival projects:
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