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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

complaint procedure.

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,

North Macedonia)


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