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Some Improvement Noted, but Serious Challenges to Access to Information of Public Character Remain

During July 2012, Macedonian Young Lawyers Association (MYLA) submitted 145 requests for free access to information of public character to a number of state institutions (AKA FOI requests). The requests were submitted in order to obtain information about the dynamics of implementation of the National Programme for Adoption of the Acquis Communautaire (NPAAC 2012) NPAAC 2012 is a strategic document which enshrines specific obligations for the state institutions whose fulfillment affects the process of the integration of Republic of Macedonia into EU. Considering the fact that NPAAC 2012 is quite voluminous document MYLA focused on the implementation of Chapter 23: Judiciary and Fundamental Rights and of Chapter 24: Justice, Freedom and Security.

The number of responses to the requests received so far leads to conclusion that there is an improvement in the conduct of the competent institutions. More than two thirds of the information holders responded within the legal limit of 30 days and delivered the requested information.

Still, MYLA noted some difficulties and problems were noted while securing access to the information of public character. Some of the information holders still have not responded to the requests to the information of public character. Certain state institutions continue with the practice of redirecting the requests towards other state institutions, instead of delivering the requested information. This is especially present in the cases when several state bodies are involved in preparation of certain acts. To avoid this situation, MYLA submitted the FOI requests exclusively to state bodies noted within the NPAAC 2012 as responsible for the implementation of the activity which is the subject of the request. However, in spite of this, MYLA received notifications that the requests were forwarded. At the same time, it's worth mentioning that in regard to resending of requests, significant number of state bodies fail to respect Article 18 of the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Character which states: “If the information holder that received the request does not posses the requested information, they must—momentarily or within 3 days from receiving of the request—resend the request to the holder of information, who according to the content of the request is the true information holder, and must inform the applicant about the resending.” MYLA reckons that this practice needlessly prolongs the procedure for access to information of public character, registering cases when institutions groundlessly resend the requests, and often times do not respect the 3-day legal deadline which obliges the information holder to resend the request to the appropriate body-information holder and inform the requester about it.

In addition, portion of the addressed information holders which denied MYLA's requests, responded without adherence to the legaly binding form of responses. Article 20 paragraph 2 from the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Character states that if the information holder partially or entirely denies the request, they must also submit a formal rejection decision or an appropriate legal act. In most cases, the denial of the FOI requests were done by written notification, and not through formal decision.

MYLA will continue to issue monthly releases to inform about the problems and challenges during the implementation of the procedure for free access to information of public character.

This report refers to the months of July and August 2012, and is part of the series of reports informing the public about the state of implementation of the free access to information of public character in Republic of Macedonia, as part of the project “Exercising of the Right to Free Access to Information with Securing Legal Aid and Strategic Advocacy.” Records on all FOI procedures initiated through this project are available on the www.spinfo.org.mk website within the “Cases” section.

Source: Foundation Open Society - Macedonia