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FOI LEGISLATION


­Constitution06:29 PM - 21 May 2010

The Constitution of Georgia includes two provisions specifying a right of access to information.(1)

 

Article 37(5). Individuals have the right to complete, objective and timely information on their working and living conditions.

 

Article 41(1). Every citizen has the right according to the law to know information about himself which exists in state institutions as long as they do not contain state, professional or commercial secrets, as well as with official records existing there. (2). Information existing in official papers connected with health, finances or other private matters of an individual are not available to other individuals without the prior consent of the affected individual, except in cases determined by law, when it is necessary for the state and public security, defense of health, rights and freedoms of others.

 

­The General Administrative Code of Georgia06:28 PM - 21 May 2010

The General Administrative Code of Georgia was adopted in 1999.(2) Chapter 3 of the Code is entitled "Freedom of Information." It sets a general presumption that information kept, received or held by a public agency should be open. All public information should be entered into a public register in two days.

 

The law gives anyone the right to submit a written request for public information regardless of the form that information takes and without having to state the reasons for the request. The agency must respond immediately and can only delay if the information is in another locality, is of a significant volume or is at another agency. Fees can only be applied for copying costs. The law also sets rules on the access and use of personal information.

 

There are exemptions for information that is protected by another law or that which is considered a state, commercial, professional or personal secret. Names of some public servants participating in a decision by an official can be withheld under executive privilege but the papers can be released. The 2001 amendment prohibits the withholding of the names of political officials.

 

Information relating to the environment and hazards to health, structures and objectives of agencies, election results, results of audits and inspections, registers of information and any other information that is not state, commercial, or personal secrets cannot be classified. All public information created before 1990 is open. Agencies are also required to issue reports each year on the requests and their responses under the Act.

 

Those whose requests have been denied can appeal internally or can ask a court to nullify an agency decision. The court can review classified information to see if it has been classified properly. The Supreme Court ruled in June 2003 that legal fees can be obtained as damages when a requester wins a case.

 

­Freedom of speech and expression12:29 AM - 10 September 2010

The state recognizes and protects the freedom of expression as an inherent and supreme human value. In the course of discharge of the authority, people and the state are bound by these rights and freedoms as by directly applicable law.
Everyone except for administrative agencies has the right to freedom of expression, absolute freedom of opinion, obtaining, receipt, creation, keeping, processing and dissemination of any kind of information and ideas.
 

­The Law on State Secrets 06:26 PM - 21 May 2010

The Law on State Secrets sets rules on the classification of information where "disclosure or loss of which may inflict harm on the sovereignty, constitutional framework or political and economic interests of Georgia". There are three categories with fixed terms for the length of classification: "Of Extraordinary Importance"- 20 years, Top Secret - 10 years and Secret - 5 years. The State Inspection for Protection of State Secrets oversees the protection of secrets and can order declassification. A 1997 decree sets the procedures on classification. Information shall be declassified no later than the end of the fixed term (unless it is extended by the President) or when it is no longer necessary to be classified. All information about the construction of the President's residence was decreed to be a state secret in 2004.

­The Criminal Code06:25 PM - 21 May 2010

The Criminal Code prohibits the disclosure of personal secrets, state secrets, and other secret information

­Aarhus Convention06:24 PM - 21 May 2010

Georgia signed the Aarhus Convention in June 1998 and ratified it in April 2000. The Law on Environmental Protection provides for a right to information about the environment and other related laws provide for public registers.

­Council of Europe Convention on Access06:21 PM - 21 May 2010

The Council of Europe Convention on Access  is the first binding international legal instrument to recognize a general right of access to official documents held by public authorities. Transparency of public authorities is a key feature of good governance and an indicator of whether or not a society is genuinely democratic and pluralist, opposed to all forms of corruption, capable of criticizing those who govern it, and open to enlightened participation of citizens in matters of public interest. The right of access to official documents is also essential to the self-development of people and to the exercise of fundamental human rights. It also strengthens public authorities’ legitimacy in the eyes of the public, and its confidence in them. Considering this, national legal systems should recognize and properly enforce a right of access to everyone to official documents produced or held by public authorities.

 


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