Albania to Disclose Data About Telephone Surveillance

24 March 2015

Albania’s General Prosecutor’s Office has agreed to disclose statistical information on telephone surveillance.

The move was applauded by the nongovernmental organization NGO Res Publica welcomed the decision.

The disclosed document, operational surveillance measures were authorized in relation to 689 cases and concerning 3,140 individuals in 2014, as opposed to 3,112 individuals in 2013 and 2,315 in 2012. It had been requested by investigative journalist Lindita Cela.

Access was refused at first by the General Prosecutor’s Office, the State Secret Services and the General Police Directorate on state secrets grounds. She filed an administrative appeal before the Commissioner for the Right to Information and Protection of Personal Data, a position created by the new 2014 RTI law.

Cela, represented by Res Publica, “argued that on the basis of international human rights law and standards, the information requested was of a purely statistical nature and as such could not be considered confidential,” the group said.

“After the hearing, the Commissioner called upon the three institutions to review the classification of the information requested as a state secret. By its decision to re-classify the information as not confidential, the General Prosecutor’s Office paved the way for its disclosure, thus reversing its previous refusal.”

Executive Director for Res Publica Dorian Matlija praised the decision and the role of the commissioner. “Instead of protracted and costly judicial proceedings before judges whose heavy workload does not allow them to be acquainted with the latest international developments in the field of access to information, Ms Cela’s request was heard expeditiously and at no cost before a specialized quasi-judicial body,” Matlija added.

“Challenges however remain,” the group reported. “Both the General Prosecutor’s Office as well as the State Secret Service refused to disclose the number of preventive surveillance measures, namely measures that are not authorized by an independent judicial body, maintaining their arguments as to the confidential nature of such information. Moreover, as of the date of writing, the General Police Directorate had not issued its decision on reviewing the classification of the information requested.”

Cela was quoted as saying she would pursue the request. “It is time we started dismantling the culture of secrecy still prevailing in some pockets of state institutions,” she stated.

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