Raising Public Awareness About the Right to Free Access to Public Information Through the Created and Conducted Media Presentations and Educational Campaign (MK0053)
Action Plan: Macedonia, Second Action Plan, 2014-2016
Action Plan Cycle: 2014
Lead Institution: Commission for Protection of the Right to Free Access to Public Information
Support Institution(s): All Municipalities; Open Society Foundation – Macedonia; Association for Emancipation, Solidarity and Equality of Women of Macedonia; Center for Civil Communication
Policy AreasAccess to Information, Capacity Building, E-Government, Public Participation, Right to Information
Raising public awareness about the right to free access to public information through the created and conducted media presentations and educational campaign
IRM End of Term Status Summary
IX. FOI: Public Awareness and Partnership Building
Commitment 3.1: Public Awareness about Right to Information
Commitment Text: 3.1. Raising public awareness about the right to free access to public information through […] media presentations and educational campaign.
Commitment 3.7: Memo of Cooperation
Commitment Text: 3.7. Increasing the cooperation of the Commission with associations and foundations and municipalities in RM through Memorandum of Cooperation.
Responsible institution(s): Commission for Protection of the Right to Free Access to Public Information
Supporting institution(s): All municipalities, Open Society Foundation – Macedonia; Association for Emancipation, Solidarity and Equality of Women of Macedonia; Center for Civil Communication
Start Date: 1/4/2014 End Date: 31/12/2016
This cluster of commitments sought to build partnerships between the Commission for Protection of the Right to Free Access to Public Information and civil society, so as to raise awareness about the right of free access to information.
Commitment 3.1: Substantial
Commitment 3.7: Not started
The IRM researcher has concluded that substantial progress was made on commitment 3.1. This is due to the 27 different activities organized by the FOI Commission and civil society targeting journalists, young people, civil society organisations, and the public in general.
Commitment 3.7 aimed to formalise cooperation between the Commission and CSOs through a Memorandum of Cooperation. According to the midterm self-assessment report and interviews with Commission officials and civil society representatives, this commitment did not begin during the first year of implementation.
For more information, please see the 2014-2016 IRM midterm report.
End of term
Commitment 3.1: Complete
Commitment 3.7: Not started
The FOI Commission continues its activities to raise awareness about the right to freely access information. The Commission celebrated the international right-to-know day in both 2015 and 2016. It also regularly uses TV and other media to present its work, and collaborated with educational institutions to target youth. As a result, the commission reported that the complaints filed by citizens doubled in 2015, compared to 2014. The awareness level is still not satisfactory, however.[Note 65: FOI Commission, Annual Reports for 2015 (Skopje: 2016, FOI Commissiom), 6 [available at: http://bit.ly/2c0Z88R in Macedonian].]
The government did not report progress on commitment 3.7. The IRM researcher did not find evidence of further activities to sign the memorandum between the Commission and civil society. The Commission did sign a cooperation agreement with UNDP and OSCE on 28 September 2016, in which proactive transparency is the priority.[Note 66: FOI Commission, news archive.]
Did it open government?
Access to information: Marginal
Civic Participation: Marginal
Commitment 3.1 was designed to raise awareness of the right of access to information. Although it had been legally guaranteed for a decade, according to a representative pool commissioned by civil society, this right was unknown to most citizens at the time the commitment was made.[Note 67: FOSM, Six Years Latter: Is the Wall of Silence Cracking (Skopje: FOSM, 2013), available at: http://bit.ly/2dLlUqO. ] Efforts by the Commission and civil society to raise awareness resulted in an increased use of the FOI law by citizens. In 2016, one quarter of all complaints was filed by citizens. However, the law continues to be predominantly used by civil society organisations.
A positive trend is the decrease in the number of appeals in 2016, after increasing continuously for a decade. A total of 619 complaints were filed, compared with 960 registered in 2015. However, the “volume and quality of information published by individual state bodies in the last year fell.”[Note 68: European Commission, Annual Progress Report for 2016 (Brussels: EC, 2016), 12, available at: http://bit.ly/2jeI2Jk.] Furthermore, access to information is still limited. This is mainly because of mute refusals. Sixty-five percent of all complaints filed with the commission in 2016 were due to this factor. Every fifth complaint is due to an unsatisfactory reply. The Commission also notes that authorities often invoke exceptions, particularly with regard to classified information, but usually without plausible explanation and without conducting a public interest test.[Note 69: FOI Commission, Annual Reports for 2016 (Skopje: 2017, FOI Commissiom), 18-19, available at: http://bit.ly/2qWWHQj [in Macedonian].] One in ten complaints is filed as a result of this.
Raising public awareness of the right to information (commitment 3.1) has been included in the third national action plan. This commitment with its three milestones will be a joint endeavour between the Commission and civil society. Commitment 3.7 was not carried forward, but the government has assured that cooperation with civil society will be part of a continuous effort to raise awareness and improve access to information and transparency of institutions. The Commission has advocated regular cooperation with civil society through the OGP working groups.