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Georgia

Development of the Freedom of Information Law (GE0048)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Georgia National Action Plan 2016-2018

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Ministry of Justice of Georgia; Anti-Corruption Council

Support Institution(s): Parliament of Georgia; Open Society Foundation – Georgia; Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI)

Policy Areas

Access to Information, Legislation & Regulation, Public Participation, Right to Information

IRM Review

IRM Report: Georgia End-of-Term Report 2016-2018, Georgia Mid-Term Report 2016-2018

Starred: No

Early Results: Did Not Change

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Public Accountability

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Development of the Freedom of Information Law. Improving legal framework of freedom of information and elaborating new provisions in compliance with international standards which are gradually being implemented, is one of the top priorities for the government of Georgia. In the framework of the first Action Plan of Georgia, decree of the government of Goegira “About the Form of the Electronic Request of Information and Proactive Disclosure of Public Information” was adopted. Through this reform, Georgia became one of seven finalist countries at the “Bright Spots” competition held by the OGP Global Summit in London. The goal of the competition was to demonstrate successful reforms implemented as a result of civil society-government cooperation. At the next stage, the government started more ambitious project of elaborating a stand-along act on freedom of information. To carry out a wide-scale consultations, a special working group comprised of representatives from the Ministry of Justice, civil society, and independent experts was created. This working group carried out an important work: (1) to identified key problematic issues in the field, thematic working groups were established; (2) the first version of the project with potential amendments was drafted and submitted to the Anti-Corruption Council; (3) meetings with the focus groups (judges, journalists, persons responsible for information disclosure) were held; (4) the draft law prepared by the working group was presented to the Ministry of Justice; (5) the draft project underwent primary international expertise. Ministry of Justice will negotiate the draft law with all governmental agencies in the framework of the given Action Plan. After the detailed review of the draft law, in the framework of the Anti-corruption Council activities, Ministry of Justice will conduct one more consultation round with governmental and civil society organizations to finalize the text of the draft law. Implementation date: 2016-2017;

IRM End of Term Status Summary

7. Development of the Freedom of Information Law

Commitment Text:

Improving legal framework of freedom of information and elaborating new provisions in compliance with international standards which are gradually being implemented, is one of the top priorities for the government of Georgia.

In the framework of the first Action Plan of Georgia, decree of the government of Georgia “About the Form of the Electronic Request of Information and Proactive Disclosure of Public Information” was adopted. Through this reform, Georgia became one of seven finalist countries at the “Bright Spots” competition held by the OGP Global Summit in London. The goal of the competition was to demonstrate successful reforms implemented as a result of civil society-government cooperation.

At the next stage, the government started more ambitious project of elaborating a stand-along act on freedom of information. To carry out a wide-scale consultations, a special working group comprised of representatives from the Ministry of Justice, civil society, and independent experts was created. This working group carried out an important work: (1) to identified key problematic issues in the field, thematic working groups were established; (2) the first version of the project with potential amendments was drafted and submitted to the Anti-Corruption Council; (3) meetings with the focus groups (judges, journalists, persons responsible for information disclosure) were held; (4) the draft law prepared by the working group was presented to the Ministry of Justice; (5) the draft project underwent primary international expertise.

Ministry of Justice will negotiate the draft law with all governmental agencies in the framework of the given Action Plan. After the detailed review of the draft law, in the framework of the Anti-corruption Council activities, Ministry of Justice will conduct one more consultation round with governmental and civil society organizations to finalize the text of the draft law.

Responsible institution: Ministry of Justice of Georgia, Anti-Corruption Council

Supporting institution(s): Parliament of Georgia, Open Society Foundation – Georgia, Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI)

Start date: Not provided End date: December 2017

Commitment Aim:

Under this long pre-existing commitment, the Ministry of Justice pledged to finalize the draft of a standalone Freedom of Information (FoI) law, discuss it within the government and submit it to the parliament for adoption.

Status

Midterm: Limited

At the midterm, the commitment had limited implementation since the updated draft was not approved by the government nor submitted to the parliament. This draft envisaged the following:

  • Introduce an independent oversight body—Freedom of Information Commissioner—with the authority to fine agencies that violate the FoI legislation;
  • Create a unified registry to categorize and manage public information, and to allow quick and simple access;
  • Expand the list of agencies responsible for granting access to information, including state-owned enterprises;
  • Reduce the number of working days from ten to three for issuing readily available information; and
  • Require public agencies to publish their data on the unified open data portal, gov.ge, and explain the state and societal damage that could result from publishing classified information, and to declassify secret information that is in high public demand.  

The MoJ put this draft on hold for more than two years. Only in May 2017, the Ministry shared the updated draft with all relevant stakeholders, including the Anti-Corruption Council and the members of the working group and the OGP Forum. The updated draft was largely based on the previous draft and contained all key provisions discussed above. The Ministry received numerous comments on this draft and was in the process of addressing those comments. They also held bilateral meetings with different public agencies to explain the proposed novelties. The MoJ planned to submit the new draft to the government by end of 2017.

End of term: Limited

No major progress has been made since the midterm evaluation. The MoJ was in the process of consultations with all relevant public agencies who had numerous reservations on the novelties proposed by the draft, especially those regarding the Freedom of Information Commissioner. The law enforcement agencies are particularly sensitive to the implementation of this oversight mechanism and the public interest test (i.e., the obligation of public agencies to explain the damage that could be inflicted on the state and society by publishing classified information and to declassify secret information that is in high public demand) especially with regard to information that is classified under the state security clauses. [21] The MoJ consulted public agencies on the new draft due to the complexity and sensitivity of the proposed provisions. The CSOs provided comments, however, the MoJ did not respond with feedback and CSOs were disappointed with the process. [22] According to the MoJ, interagency consultations on the draft are ongoing. [23]

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Did Not Change

Given that the existing FoI draft law has not been approved by the government nor submitted to parliament, as of October 2018, there is no change in government practice regarding improved access to information and public accountability.

Carried Forward?

The commitment was not carried into the new Action Plan 2018−2019. Civil society provided the government important recommendations for improving access to information in Georgia.

  • The existing draft FoI law should be adopted promptly, including all key novel provisions discussed above. These provisions should also apply to companies founded by the state or having 50% or more state ownership shares as well as to individual state-funded entrepreneurs performing public functions.
  • The government needs to expand the list of information that should be published proactively, including detailed data of the individual salaries, bonuses, and business trip allowances of public servants.
  • The government should define more clearly what type of information can be classified and under what reasons. It should also declassify personal information in high public demand if the benefit received from disclosing such information is higher than that of keeping it secret.

[21] Zurab Sanikidze (Head of the Analytical Department of the Ministry of Justice of Georgia) and Ketevan Tsanava (National Coordinator of OGP, Ministry of Justice), interview with IRM researcher, 30 Aug. 2018.

[22] Transparency International Georgia and IDFI, interviews with IRM researcher, Jul.−Aug. 2018.

[23] Ministry of Justice, comment received during pre-publication review period for this IRM report.


Commitments

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