Freedom of Information Act in Macedonia

By EDRi · January 18, 2006

The Civil Society in Macedonia is very much concerned about the quality of
the proposed draft Law on Free Access to Information of Public Character as
it does not meet international standards on access to information. Today
(18.01.2006), it is expected that the Macedonian Parliament will adopt the

Nongovernmental organizations Article 19, Foundation Open Society
Institute – Macedonia, Pro Media-Skopje and Transparency-Macedonia sent an
open letter to the President of the Republic of Macedonia, President of the
Parliament and the President of the Government stating their concerns
regarding the weaknesses in the latest Draft Law on Free Access to
Information. They also complain about the lack of real progress towards its

The letter that was signed by 126 Macedonian civil society organizations
appeals for prompt adoption of the Law on Free Access to Information that
considers the recommendations given by Article 19 and is consistent with
international standards. The main concerns include:

– The law does not claim final authority in matters of freedom of
information, and is vulnerable to being eclipsed by secrecy laws, such as
the Classified Information Law.
– Plans to establish a commission charged with hearing appeals and promoting
implementation of the law have been dropped in favour of adjudication in the
regular court system. Experience across many countries shows that an
independent administrative complaints mechanism is essential to the
effective functioning of an access to information system; court procedures
are simply too lengthy and costly for the vast majority of potential
information complainants.
– The law does not contain a clear “harm test”, which would stipulate that
requests for information should never be refused unless disclosure would
pose a serious risk of actual harm.
– The law does not guarantee protection of whistleblowers

The process of drafting the law was initiated by several NGOs in June 2003.
Additionally, during this two year period, they contributed to the drafting
of the FOI law through organizing public hearings, debates and facilitating
the process of draft law improvements.

The draft proposal of the Law suffered dramatic changes during this period
and the adoption of the Law was postponed several times. Unfortunately the
concerns of the civil society, articulated in front of the Parliamentary
Commission this week, were not taken into account when drafting the final
version of the Law that went into parliamentary procedure. NGOs and FOI
activists push for changes to the Law and hope that the Macedonian
Parliament will adopt it taking into consideration their remarks and
recommendations. In the mean time, Macedonia remains the only country in the
region that has not adopted a Freedom of Information Law.

Article 19 calls for the speedy adoption of Macedonian Freedom of
Information law ( 12.01 2006)

Comments on the Draft Law on Free Access to Information

(Contribution by Bardhyl Jashari, EDRI-member Foundation Metamorphosis –