From August 1, the media have the right to obtain information from the databases held by the Public Services Agency (PSA) in electronic format free of charge. The agency told Media Azi that journalists have access to state registers of population, of legal entities and of real estate, of drivers and of transport, as well as to other information resources of the PSA. Officials are obliged to respond to requests within five working days, in compliance with the provisions regarding the protection of personal data.
According to an official response for Media Azi, the PSA releases free of charge information of public interest for journalistic purposes within five working days and regardless of the volume requested. Specifically, it releases data from the State Register of Population, the State Register of Legal Entities, the Register of Real Estate, the State Register of Drivers, the State Register of Transport. The agency noted that this information is granted “under the conditions strictly stipulated in the regulatory acts in force, including Law no. 133/2011 on personal data protection.”
In order to request a certain piece of information, the media outlet must submit an application to the director of the agency, drawn up in free form, in which it must indicate the type of information, the purpose of obtaining and the legitimate basis, as well as the email address to which the information will be provided. Moreover, journalists must attach, upon request, a copy of the document of registration of the outlet and/or accreditation of the person as a media outlet (in PDF format).
The application can bear a handwritten signature of the head of the media outlet or an authorized person, and can be sent to the PSA by mail. If the application is signed electronically, it will be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The term for consideration of the application is calculated from the date of its registration with the institution.
The PSA noted that the new amendments do not refer to the services of granting access to state registers through the ACCES-Web automated information system and the Cadastru central database. In order to access these platforms, it is still necessary to conclude a contract. Also, the release of information in the form of an extract/certificate/record, familiarization with documents from record files at the offices of the PSA subdivisions, the release of copies of the documents stored in the archive, and information services are provided for payment.
The decision on the free provision of information in electronic format to media representatives from the state information resources held by the agency was approved by the Government on July 27. “In order to support the work of media representatives, who inform the public to ensure the fundamental right of the person to information of public interest, and to facilitate access to information of public interest for journalistic purposes, it is proposed to exempt the mentioned beneficiaries from paying for the information provided in the form of an electronic document, setting the deadline for consideration of the respective requests – 5 working days,” reads the informative note of the decision.
Over the years, the Independent Journalism Center carried out several campaigns calling for the removal of fees for information from public records requested by the media.
Earlier, a draft law was registered in the Parliament that provides for free access of journalists to PSA databases, provided that the media outlet registers as a personal data processing operator. The draft law was not approved and was returned to the Government. The Ministry of Justice claims it is currently drafting a new draft law on access to information.