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Media experts on modification of the legislation on access to information

24 September 2015
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The journalists, media experts, and lawyers who attended the Press Club meeting organized by the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) on Wednesday, September 23, pleaded for adjusting the law on access to information to current requirements.

The discussion was initiated by moderator, lawyer, and media expert Olivia Pirtac, who spoke about the importance of the law on access to information for journalists and about its deficiencies. “It has been 15 years since this law was adopted and we wonder whether it still corresponds to currents needs, since we are complaining of mania for secrecy, obstacles, and problems. The most important modifications to the law have had a negative impact on access to information, because they were made along with the adoption of the law on protection of personal data. Under the pretext of adapting them to that law, some provisions were modified, and now there are numerous complaints on unjustified obstruction of access to personal information,” Olivia Pirtac said.

In the opinion of lawyer Tatiana Puiu, when the law was adopted, it complied with all European standards, but now it needs to be modified and adjusted. “Discontent was voiced by journalists because there are some ambiguous standards, unclear terms, and no clear distinction between ‘petition’ and ‘request for information,’” Tatiana Puiu said. Another problem that was mentioned is the too long term, of 15 working days, for provision of information.
“Civil servants usually use this stipulation to provide information on the very last day. I believe that the term should be limited to 10 calendar days, not working days,” Tatiana Puiu concluded.
Special reporter for the Association of Independent Press Lilia Zaharia also supports modifications to the law on access to information. “I think that the new modifications, if they are made, should clearly stipulate the time limit for provision of information. If an institution has data, it should provide them immediately, and if it needs to search for information, it should send a reply to the applicant and inform them about it.”
Participants also discussed about the introduction of harsher penalties for the civil servants who fail to answer journalists’ requests.
CReDO Director Sergiu Ostaf supports harsher penalties and believes that the procedures of initiation of liability for contraventions should be made more efficient and better-thought, because currently they are unclear. If an authority intends to refuse information to an applicant, it should inform them about it within five days, Sergiu Ostaf concluded.
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This press club has been possible due to the generous help of the American people through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The opinions here are those of authors and might not reflect the position of the USAID or the U.S. Government.