According to a report released by the Institute for the Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), a watchdog, accessibility to public information in Georgia has fallen sharply, hitting the lowest point since 2010.
The report says most ministries and their subordinated agencies left IDFI’s freedom-of-information requests (FOI) unanswered.
In the first five months of 2023, IDFI filed 1,255 requests under freedom-of-information (FOI) laws to various ministries and their subordinate agencies. Only 7% of these requests received a response. After May 2023, IDFI simplified the FOI requests, omitting the requests for financial documentation, to test the hypothesis that this detail may be the reason for non-responsiveness. Still, only four of the 81 agencies provided IDFI with some of the requested information. The watchdog also found that in 2023, individual public institutions no longer provided certain information that was previously freely accessible.
IDFI said it submitted 89 administrative complaints for the failure to disclose public information against 11 ministries, the Office of the state minister, and 77 subordinate agencies, which ignored FOI requests in a violation of both the material and formal requirements of the law.
Weakness of redress mechanisms
IDFI reports that the redress mechanisms against the failure to provide the data that should be publicly accessible is flawed. There is no single designated agency responsible for overseeing the disclosure of public information.
The report also says that the courts are ineffective in handling the complaints since lengthy proceedings counter the essence of this right – to receive public information in due time.
In a specific case, the court – after years of deliberations – refused to oblige the government to disclose its decrees but did not release the reasoned judgment.