Belief in Access Rights Found Low in Macedonian Survey

21 November 2013

A “significant share” of citizens does not believe they enjoy the right to request information from public and state institutions, according to a survey conducted by the Foundation Open Society – Macedonia.

The study, titled “Overcoming the principles of secrecy in the public administration’s operation,” says perceptions vary by subject matter.

“Most often, citizens believe they are not entitled to request information from health care and state institutions, as every third citizen indicated this answer,” according to the report. By contrast, “almost all citizens (90%) believe they have the right to request information related to environmental matters.”

The authors said about 20 percent of those surveyed had made information requests, not necessarily through the freedom of information law, about which literacy was pretty low.

“More than one quarter of citizens (28%) indicated they do not request access to information because they believe that information is inaccessible or would not be disclosed,” according to the report, and 16% of them do not know which institution and how to address it in order to obtain the information, “which is indicative of the information gap between the state and its citizens,” the report says.

“Citizens still prefer to request information in traditional manner: in person (57%) or by telephone (33%),” the survey found.

More than half of citizens have never heard and are unaware of the Law on Free Access to Public Information, and only 13% of them are well knowledgeable about the Law,” according to the report.

The survey also covered the views of “information holders.”

Among the findings:

–      More than half of information holders (54.6%) believe that citizens’ expectations are unrealistic.

–      Most difficulties are created by the citizens’ imprecise requests.

–      Only half of information holders communicate with the Commission for Protection of the Right to Free Access to Public Information.

 

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