The New Law on Access to Information Voted in the Final Reading

The new draft law on access to information was approved by the Parliament in the final reading, with the votes of 53 deputies. The document which stipulates, among other things, eliminating the obligation to sign requests for access to information and reducing the deadline for responding to requests, will enter into force six months after its publication in the Monitorul Oficial.

Media Azi previously wrote about the fact that drafting the new law on access to information started in early 2022. According to the informative note about the initiative, adopting the document is required after, on December 1, 2020, the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents (known as the Tromsø Convention) ratified by the Republic of Moldova in 2013 entered into force. Besides, the objective is an action expressly stipulated in the implementation plan for the steps suggested by the European Commission in its opinion regarding the accession of the Republic of Moldova to the European Union.

The authors affirm that, in spite of the fact that the current law has been amended several times over the years, “it is obvious that this regulatory act is conceptually outdated and does not comply with the international regulations and standards on access to official documents. Moreover, Law No 982/2000 contains regulatory gaps which do not ensure effective compliance with the constitutional right of access to information of public interest.”

Among other things, the new law defines information of public interest as all the information held by information providers, regardless of storage medium, including political parties. It stipulates that any natural or legal person shall have the right to have access to information of public interest. In addition, it lists methods of accessing information, conditions due to which access can be limited, procedures of requesting access to information or rules on personal data, etc.

According to the initiative, holographic or electronic signatures for confirming requests will no longer be mandatory. The term for answering requests shall not exceed ten calendar days from registration, and in case of media representatives, information shall be generated immediately, but no later than in five working days. The term can be extended by a maximum of seven calendar days and five calendar days, respectively, for media representatives, if a request is complex or a large amount of information is demanded.

Unlike the law still in force, the recently approved one includes a chapter on proactive transparency, which implies that the authorities could be obliged to publish a series of information related to their activity ex officio, on their official web pages. Besides, access to information of public interest could be limited to protect one of the legitimate purposes referring to the areas listed below: national defense or security, safety or public order, preventing or investigating crimes or misdemeanors, criminal prosecution, personal data, trade secret, intellectual property and rights, environment, etc. The legislative initiative also prohibits limiting access to information of public interest which is personal data related to officials’ professional activity, such as last names, first names, positions, studies, professional experience, outstanding disciplinary sanctions, or salaries.

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