Macedonia: Serious challenges for access to public information

By EDRi · August 29, 2012

During July 2012, the 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) which is a strategic document
enshrining specific obligations for the state institutions the
fulfilment of which affects the process of the integration of the
Republic of Macedonia into EU. Considering the fact that NPAAC 2012 is
quite a 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
the 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

Still, MYLA noted some difficulties and problems had occurred, while
securing access to public information. Some of the information holders
have not yet responded to the requests regardng the public information.
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 the 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 the 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
possess the requested information, they must—immediately 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 public information, 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, part of the addressed information holders who denied
MYLA’s requests, responded without using the legally 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 was 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 public information.

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 public information in
the 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

Similar news in Macedonian (16.08.2012)

(Contribution by EDRi-members Metamorphosis Foundation – Macedonia)