New freedom of information law proposed in North Macedonia
The right to freedom of information (FOI) is protected by law in North
Macedonia since 2006. In theory, the law complies with international
standards and creates a solid basis for establishing a system to protect
this right. However, the practice during the past 12 years has shown
legal gaps, inconvenient practices, and inefficiency of the national
authority at implementing the law.
The urgent reform priorities set by the European Union in 2015 as
preconditions for North Macedonia accession to the EU specifically
require that the government fundamentally improves access to
information. Some improvements were made, forcing active transparency by
declassifying and publishing documents online, and allowing access to
data on spending of public money.
Meanwhile, the Commission for the Protection of the Right to Free Access
to Public Information (KOMSPI) that is in charge of monitoring the
implementation of the law, did not function. A huge backlog of
unresolved complaints is waiting for completion, because the parliament
failed to appoint new commissioners and replenish its ranks.
In December 2017, an initiative for a new FOI law was launched. After a
year and a half, Macedonian citizens finally received the proposed text
of the new law.
EDRi member Foundation for Internet and Society – Metamorphosis endorses
the process of passing the new Law on Free Access to Public Information,
which would provide more efficient protection of the fundamental right
to access information.
With regard to specific provisions of the proposed text, Metamorphosis
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.
Metamorphosis believes that the funding of political parties should be
considered public information to increase the transparency regarding the
spending of public money on the part of the political parties.
- Article 3, paragraph 1, indent 7: The draft text attempts to define
cases where the access to information would be of public interest by
establishing a fixed list of criteria. Metamorphosis does not recommend
the use of a restricted list to define public interest since a narrow
definition bears the risk of limiting the exercise of the right to
access information. To avoid such limited definition, we suggest
introducing a mandatory injury test to assess the existence or not of
public interest when a piece of information is being requested, without
being defined by law.
- Article 10. Metamorphosis deems the definition of public information
detailed and providing legal certainty for public information holders.
In addition, apart from the scale of the information, its availability
on websites shall contribute to reducing the number of requests for
access, thereby giving the opportunity to holders to be more efficient
as regards the full implementation of the law.
- Article 21, paragraph 1: Shortening the deadline by which holders need
to respond to a request from 30 to 20 days is a change Metamorphosis
believes will not drastically contribute to a better 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 it will implement the open government concept
in full to further increase transparency. It will propose amendments for
halving the deadline for response to public information requests from 30
to 15 days.
- Article 31: Metamorphosis deems 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, especially when it comes to leading a
The positions listed above are defined following a public debate held in
the Assembly of the Republic of North Macedonia. At the moment, the
Parliament is working on amendments and the final text is expected to be
given to the Members of the Parliament soon.
Urgent Reform Priorities for Macedonia, European Commission,
Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations
Final report from the monitoring of the implementation of the reform
priorities in the field of media for the period 01.07.2017 – 30.9.2018
Flooded with 500 complaints, Commission for Free Access to Information
awaits final members
The Commission for Protection of the Right to Free Access to Public
Information of the Republic of North Macedonia
(Contribution by Foundation for Internet and Society – Metamorphosis,