Draft Italian FOI Legislation Receives Mixed Reviews

6 November 2015

 

Two new evaluations give mixed reviews to a draft freedom of information law for Italy, a rare Europe country without a FOI law.

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) examined a bill by Member of Parliament Anna Ascani and concluded “the draft has a long way to go to meet international standards in this area. CLD is nongovernmental organization based in Canada and headed by Toby Mendel. See draft law here.

More positive was an evaluation by Ben Worthy, a lecturer in Politics at Birkbeck College, University of London, who blogs on OpenDataStudy, also issued an analysis and called the language “clear, succinct and well-constructed.”

CLD Sees Room for Improvement

“The draft law has some positive features, including a relatively broad scope in terms of the public authorities and information covered, and some interesting innovations in the area of appeals,” according to CLD.

At the same time, it suffers from a number of weaknesses, including the following:

  • Only individual citizens are granted a right to make requests for information.
  • The procedural rules for making and processing requests are far too brief and limited in nature, with key issues such as assistance and time limits simply left out.
  • The relationship of the RTI law to secrecy provisions in other laws is unclear, too many exceptions are overbroad and/or lack a harm test, and the public interest override is limited to just one exception.
  • Officials who disclose information in good faith pursuant to the law are not provided with protection against sanctions.
  • Most of the promotional measures found in better practice laws are missing.

Worthy More Positive

Worthy complimented the bill for being “wide in applicability including a variety of public bodies and entities providing a public service” and for having “clearly expressed exemptions and a public interest test mechanism.” He said, “There is a good oversight regime located in an already established body” and praised “a clear sensitivity to data protection and privacy.

He also liked the bills proactive disclosure provisions. “One more promising feature are ‘disclosure logs’ whereby all previous requests and answers are listed and can be searched publically (also useful for the public body to be able to search for answers to repeat requests),” Worthy wrote.

The appeal timelines “may prove difficult to work in practice,” Worthy said, noting that the draft law gives “a rather short time limit of 30 days.” He commented, “The danger with such a timeframe is that delay will build up and slow down the system with a detrimental effect on confidence.” He also suggested requiring authorities to help and assist requesters.

Worthy suggested a variety of ways that the coverage of the law should be expanded,

He also advised creation of a body to oversee implementation.

 

 

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