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IJC Provides a Series of Lessons at the Academy of Public Administration on Access to Information and Transparency of the Decision-Making Process

30 October 2019
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A group of newly-employed civil servants from central public authorities, who are trainees of the Academy of Public Administration (APA), participated on Monday, 28 October in a training organised by the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) in partnership with APA, on how to apply the legislation on access to information. This training is part of a series of lessons that IJC will organise at the APA, following a collaboration agreement signed in September. The purpose of the activities is to increase the knowledge of civil servants of all levels, so that they would have a better understanding of media legislation, and thus overcome the current problems that journalists encounter when dealing with civil servants.
 
The program participants discussed the legal aspects civil servants must follow in their work, when they have to provide information of public interest to citizens or when they respond to journalists’ requests for information.
 
Tatiana Puiu, Freedom House Representative in Moldova and media law expert, and Nicolae Cuschevici, RISE Moldova journalist – trainers of this course – explained to APA trainees what is the procedure for requesting and obtaining information, including information with limited access; what is the right to access information vs. privacy; what is the liability of those who violate the right to access information, etc.
  
Trainees analysed several types of information requests and they had to decide what answers to offer in each case and to present convincing arguments as to why they chose one answer or another. At the same time, they were explained what sanctions the law provides if they fail to respond to such requests. Trainees were also informed about the litigations with institutions that refused to provide answers to the journalists’ requests for information. 
 
Among others, participants were interested in the controlled access to information of public interest, and how the servants must act when they are requested information that is a trade, medical or state secret; what answer can they give if the request concerns aspects of private life or personal data.
 
In their everyday work, journalists often come across civil servants that have different and sometimes erroneous interpretations of the legislation on access to information and of the Administrative Code. The trainers drew trainees’ attention to the need to distinguish a request for information from a petition. Since the deadline for fulfilling a petition is 30 days, while for a request – 15 days, the civil servants often respond to the journalists’ requests for information within 30 days, which is a misinterpretation of the law.
 
Finally, civil servants were advised to show leniency to information requests received from journalists and cases when journalists use legal terminology inaccurately should not be grounds for not offering them the requested information. 
 
Next training will take place on 11 November with a group of civil servants from local public authorities as trainees.  
 
This course was conducted by the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) under the ‘Media Enabling Democracy, Inclusion and Accountability in Moldova’ (MEDIA-M) project, funded by USAID, UK aid, and implemented by Internews in Moldova, which aims to promote the development of independent and professional mass-media and to create media sector that is more resilient to political and economic pressure.