Foundation for Internet and Society – Metamorphosis endorses the process of passing a new Law on Free Access to Public Information, which will provide more effective protection of the right to free access to public information as a human right.
With regard to specific provisions of the proposed text of the Law on Free Access to Public Information, Foundation for Internet and Society – Metamorphosis holds the positions below and suggests the following:
- Article 1, paragraph 1 – the defining of political parties as public information holders in terms of income and expenditures is one of the key positive novelties of the Law on Free Access to Public Information. We believe that the public information status given to information related to the funding of political parties with budget funds is of exceptional importance for increasing the transparency regarding the manner of spending of public money on the part of the political parties.
- Article 3, paragraph 1, indent 7 – the defining of the public interest through exhaustive numbering of cases (7) in which the exercising of the right to information shall be considered public interest does not demonstrate clearly whether the injury test will be applied in cases different than the numbered ones as a mechanism for assessing the (non)existence of the public interest. We do not recommend the attempt to define the public interest since every defining of the public interest bears the risk of limiting the exercise of human rights. To avoid such limited interpretation of this definition, we suggest the injury test, defined as mandatory, to be used for assessing the (non)existence of the public interest, without being defined by law.
- Article 10 – we deem the detailed defining of pieces of information by numbering them an appropriate manner of helping the holders to define the list of public information. In addition, apart from the size of information, its availability on websites shall contribute to reducing the number of requests for free access that holders would receive, thereby they are given the opportunity to be more efficient as regards the full implementation of the law.
- Article 21, paragraph 1 – shortening of the response deadline following the request for free access to public information from 30 to 20 days is a change we believe will not drastically contribute to a bettered implementation of the law, especially when journalists request public information. Additionally, in its work plan 2017-2022, the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia states that due to the increase of transparency, it will implement the open government concept in full, will propose amendments for halving the deadline for response to public information requests from 30 to 15 days in keeping with the Open Government Partnership.
- Article 31 – we deem positive the change of the status of the authority responsible for implementing the Law on Free Access to Public Information, from a Commission, as a collective body, to an Agency, as an independent body, which is expected to reflect in practice soon, especially when it comes to leading a complaint procedure.
Foundation for Internet and Society – Metamorphosis continues to work actively in the area of promotion of human rights and social accountability, which are part of Foundation’s strategic commitments.