Improvements Suggested for Azerbaijan Access Law

8 December 2010

Ideas for amending the Azerbaijan access to information law, for improving administration of the law and for enhancing proactive public access to information are among the recommendations contained in a new report.

Prepared by the Open Society Institute and its affiliates, the report covers four countries in the region.  The recommendations are based on the experience of making requests, with mixed success.

The current law of Azerbaijan on access to information needs to be supported with exact lists of the information necessary for each governmental body to disclose for public, the report states.

Similarly, the government should provide a list of information which is confidential and restricted, according to another in a long list of recommendations.

The rules for getting personal information should be defined, the report continues, and a variety of amendments to the law and to administrative practice are suggested. These include adjustments to the reasons for rejecting requests.

 The government needs a better tracking system for requests, and should establish “state information reserves, with a special Law to protect and back its usage.”  And the budget for information technologies should be unified, the report also states. Public Information Centers, provided for by law, should be established. What should be posted on municipal websites should be determined, according to the recommendations which also offer other suggestions on improving broader access to information, including selection of an ombudsman on information issues

The report further proposes, “Introduce new law on legal protection of intellectual property objects in the field of information.”

The organization of a campaign to raise public awareness on access is among the suggestions in a section on what public institutions and civil society can do.

Four-Country Study

The recommendations are contained in a report prepared by the Open Society Institute-Assistance Foundation, Azerbaijan. OSI affiliates in four countries – Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan – made requests for public finance information and contributed to the report.

Hundreds of requests for information were made in the four countries and the results were tabulated and evaluated. The requests were submitted in each country during 2009 and 2010 by journalists, NGOs and citizens. They sought documents, descriptions of procedures and statistics, according to the report.

The highest level of responsiveness was in Georgia (80%) and the lowest in Ukraine (38%). The number of complete answers was the highest in Georgia and Azerbaijan, while in Ukraine only 38 out of 151 inquiries were responded to completely. Georgia also had the highest percentage of timely responses.  In looking at responses from ministries, the report found that “the situation was the best in Ukraine.”

The report is available in Azerbaijani, English and Russian at www.osi.az.

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