Albania Rights Groups Hail New New FOI Law

The new and improved law on freedom of information passed recently by Albania’s parliament should greatly improve people’s access to official data, experts say.

Besar Likmeta
BIRN

Tirana

Access to information is a right | Photo courtesy : freedomofinformation.org

Dorian Matlija, a lawyer from the Res Publica centre in Tirana, told BIRN on Tuesday that Albania’s new bill on freedom of information, which parliament adopted on September 18, will speed up access to official documents and government data.

Matlija said the new law shortened the deadlines, speeded up the complaints process and instituted fines for officials who refuse information requests.

The new law will also include a number of new concepts in regard to freedom of information requests, including reclassification of secret documents, and release of partial information and through maximal use of information technology.

The new law, which annuls the old FOIA law passed in 1999, was drafted by the Ministry of Justice in cooperation with the Open Society Foundation in Albania.

Gent Ibrahimi, a legal expert who participated in the drafting of the law, said the bill introduced the concept of personal responsibility in the decision-making process of public officials, which is a novelty in Albanian law.

“Our legal and administrative culture is such that officials only implement what is prescribed by letter in the law – and this bill provides just that,” Ibrahimi said in Tirana on Tuesday. “The sanctions prescribed in the law are a first for Albanian legislation,” he added.

The law obliges public institutions to appoint coordinators for access to information and creates the institution of a Commissioner for the Right to Information.

Although the law is seen as a great improvement on its predecessor, which public institutions often ignored, Matlija warns that no one should lower their guard in terms of monitoring its proper implementation.

“Civil society and the media can not only test institutions through this law but also can act as watchdogs,” he said. Source: BalkanInsight

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