Israel

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  • 2 September 2016

    NGO Complains to OGP About Israel’s Behavior

    Israel is acting in ways contrary to the principles it endorsed when becoming a member of the Open Government Partnership, according to a nongovernmental organization, the Alternative Information Center (AIC). After a month’s delay, the Open Government Partnership on Sept. 2 posted the four-page letter dated July 25. The OGP Criteria and Standards Subcommittee met […]

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  • 21 April 2016

    Israeli Court Denies Access to Records Concerning Rwanda

    The Supreme Court has ruled that records documenting Israel’s arms dealings with Rwanda during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi will remain undisclosed. The ruling, reported by Juddah Ari Gross for the Times of Israel, says there were pressing security and foreign relations concerns that prevent releasing the documents, citing Section 9 of Israel’s FOI law. […]

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News Archive

  • 10 October 2013

    Israel to Cut FOI Fees, Cover Private Functions, Livni Says

    Fees for making freedom of information requests will be cut and more information will be provided about private organizations performing public functions, according to Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni. “When the state transfers resources into private hands,” Livni said, “the communication needs to be transparent and open for public scrutiny… the relationship needs to be […]

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  • 10 July 2013

    Israeli Court Orders Disclosures About Tax Breaks

     The Tel Aviv District Court July 8 ruled that the Finance Ministry must disclose the list of companies that have received tax breaks under the Law for the Encouragement of Capital Investment. The judge said that the information requested was not confidential under the tax code, as the government argued. Judge Michal Agmon-Gonen gave the government […]

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  • 23 May 2013

    Israeli Justice Minister Backs Reform, Lower Fees

    Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni May 21 advocated transparency for the ministerial committee for legislative affairs and says she plans to lower fees for freedom of information requesters, according to an article in the Jerusalem Post Commemorating the 15th anniversary of the Law on Freedom of Information, Livni called it “an instrument for repairing. It is […]

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  • 27 August 2012

    Israeli Court Orders Release of Educational Test Records

    Israel’s Supreme Court has ordered the release of data about the scores of individual schools in national and international comparative exams. The request was filed six years ago by a group of parents active in a nongovernmental organization concerned about education in poverty neighborhoods. The Ministry of Education denied, attempts at compromise failed, and an […]

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  • 1 April 2011

    Israeli Court Orders Disclosures by Ministry

    By Roy Peled Director, Movement for Freedom of Information in Israel  The Tel-Aviv administrative court March 30 issued an important ruling, in which it ordered the Ministry of defense to release drafts that were later not adopted by the ministry, in which authors calculated what should be considered “red lines” of minimal food produce that […]

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  • 23 March 2011

    Israeli Cabinet Approves Creation of New FOI Unit

    The Israeli Cabinet March 6 approved the creation of a central freedom of information unit, to be housed within the Ministry of Justice. The unit is authorized to “to guide government ministries in regard to wrong-doing revealed in their handling of FOI requests.”  In addition, the new office will create a website to provide information, […]

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  • 29 October 2010

    FOIA Request in Israel Obtains Release of Documents on Gaza

    The Israeli Military has released documents on how it decided which products would and would not be allowed to enter the Palestinian Gaza strip. The documents were requested by Gisha, a nongovernmental organization working for freedom of movement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, with the Support of the Movement for Freedom of Information in Israel, […]

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  • 5 February 2009

    New Regulations Require Israeli Government to Disclose Environmental Information

    Jerusalem, Israel – On February 2, 2009, the Interior and Environmental Protection Committee of the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, approved new regulations that would compel Israeli public authorities to make environmental information available to the public. Even though environmental information was specifically mentioned in Article 9 of Israels 1998 Freedom of Information Law, further implemented […]

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  • 11 October 2003

    “The Right to Know is Gaining around the World”

    by Thomas Blanton The International Herald Tribune, October 11, 2003, p. 6 Last month (September 23, 2003), Armenia became the 51st country in the world to guarantee its citizens the right to know what their government is up to. Armenia’s new freedom of information law is the latest outpost of the worldwide movement towards opening […]

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links

LEGAL DOCUMENTS

Freedom of Information Law 5758-1998

 

The Protection of Privacy Law 5741-1981 [excerpts]

 

ORGANIZATIONS

The Movement for Freedom of Information

 

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel

 

SHVIL (Transparency International - Israel)

 

OTHER RESOURCES

Debbie L. Rabina, "Access to government information in Israel: stages in the continuing development of a national information policy" (2000)

 

Yoram Rabin & Roy Peled, "Between FOI Law and FOI Culture: The Israeli Experience," Open Government (28 July 2005)

 

Yuval Karniel, "Case Comment: The new Freedom of Information Law in Israel is tested by its Supreme Court," Open Government (28 July 2005).

 

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

Click to view.

Text from the freedominfo.org Global Survey: Freedom of Information and Access to Government Records Around the World, by David Banisar (updated July 2006)

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

The Supreme Court ruled in the 1990 Shalit case that citizens have a fundamental right to obtain information from the government.(1)

The Freedom of Information Law was unanimously approved by the Knesset in May 1998 and went into effect in May 1999.(2) The law was the culmination of a campaign launched in 1992 by the Coalition for Freedom of Information. The law allows any citizen or resident access to information held by public authorities including government ministries, the Presidency, Parliament, courts, local councils, government-owned corporations and other bodies doing public business. Additional bodies can be included by the Justice Ministry and a committee in the Knesset. Universities and the National Lottery were recently included.

It can also be used by non-citizens and non-residents relating to their rights in Israel. The information can be in any form, including written, recorded, filmed, photographed or digitized. Requests for information must be processed within 30 days and departments have 15 days after processing to provide the information.

The security services and other bodies that handle intelligence matters, national security and foreign policy are excluded from coverage under the Act. There are mandatory exemptions for information that would harm national security, foreign affairs of the safety of an individual, or that the Minister of Defense has declared to be necessary for protecting national security; personal privacy; or is protected by another law. There are discretionary exemptions for information that may interfere with the functioning of a public authority; policies under development; negotiations with external bodies of individuals; internal deliberations; internal agency management; trade or professional secrets (except for some environmental information); privileged information; law enforcement customs and procedures; disciplinary affairs of public employees; and if they would damage the privacy of a dead person. The public authority must consider the public interest in releasing the information.

Those denied information may appeal to the courts, which can review all information that is withheld and order the release of information if it finds that the public interest in disclosure is greater than the reason for withholding and the disclosure if not prohibited by another law. There have been numerous court cases which have been somewhat contradictory.(3) The Supreme Court limited the application of the law in 2005, rejecting a lower courts ruling that "special harm" must be found to justify withholdings.(4) In January 2006, it limited the withholding of information to protect internal discussions.(5)

Public authorities must publish regulations, guidelines and information detailing how to use the FOIL. The authorities must also publish an annual report on their structure and activities and appoint an official responsible for the act. Under e-government efforts, government departments are required to publish information on their web sites including reports.(6)

A recent review indicates that the implementation of the law has not been particularly successful.(7) The Civil Service Commission never set up a planned unit to implement the act and there is no central monitoring of the bodies including reviewing the annual reports. There has been almost no training of officials. There has also been a lack of interest by requestors with most ministries receiving less than 100 requests each year, mostly for non-personal information requests.(8) Few journalists appear to be using the Act. A new organization, the Freedom of Information Movement, was recently set up to promote openness.(9) An index published by the FOIM and the Coleman School of Law in Rishon le-Zionin 2006 found that even the best ranked ministries did not do better than a rating of 3.03 out of 5. The Ministries of Treasury and Justice received the best scores while Tourism and Agriculture were the worst.

Under the Protection of Privacy Law, individuals have a right to access their personal information held in databanks by government or private entities.(10) It is enforced by the Registrar of Databases within the Ministry of Justice.

The Archive Law 1955 and regulations set a 30 year rule for access to documents submitted to the State Archives and 50 year rule for military documents.(11) However, many government departments have created their own archives which are not subject to the law.(12) The State Comptroller issued a report in May 2004 critical of the lack of guidelines on the preservation of electronic records and warned that many were being lost or destroyed.(13) The State Archivist, Dr. Tuvia Friling, resigned in protest in December 2004 following the refusal of the General Security Service and the Mossad to follow the 50 year rule and release security documents from the time of Israel's founding.

Chapter 76 of the Penal Code sets rules on classification of information and prohibits government employees from disclosing information.

2004 freedominfo.org Global Survey Results - Israel

NOTES

1. H.C. 1601-4/90 Shalit et al. v. Peres el at., 44(3) P.D. 353. See Debbie L. Rabina, Access to government information in Israel: stages in the continuing development of a national information policy, http://www.ifla.org/IV/ifla66/papers/018-160e.htm

2. Freedom of Information Law 5758-1998.

3. Rabin, Y and Peled, R (2005) Between FOI Law and FOI Culture: The Israeli Experience. Open Government: a journal on Freedom of Information. Volume 1 Issue 2. 26 July 2005

4. Karniel, Y (2005) Case Comment: The New Freedom of Information Law in Israel is Tested by its Supreme Court. Open Government: a journal on Freedom of Information. Volume 1 Issue 2. 26 July 2005.

5. Supreme Court: Publicly-funded bodies must provide freer information, Jerusalem Post, 22 January 2006.

6. Israel Government Gateway. http://www.info.gov.il/eng/mainpage.asp. See Israel: Round Table Report, ICA 36th Conference, October 2002.

7. Rabin, Y and Peled, Id.

8. Email from Roy Peled, Movement for Freedom of Information, January 2005.

9. Homepage: http://www.foim.org.il/main/default.aspx

10. The Protection of Privacy Law 5741-1981, 1011 Laws of the State of Israel 128. http://www.rgr.co.il/English/Resources/PRIVACYr.pdf (unofficial translation)

11. Archives Law, 5715-1955.

12. Deborah Rabina, Examination of and Recommendations for a national information policy for Israel: the Use of Democratic Models for the Understanding of Information Policy Processes (PhD Thesis, 2001).

13. Preservation of Electronic Records, Annual Report of the State Comptroller, May 2004.

 

 

Measuring Openness

Global Right to Information Rating
A country-by-country rating of laws by the Centre for Democracy and Law and Access Info.

Freedom House
The Freedom in the World report.

World Bank
Worldwide Governance Indicators

Transparency International, Corruption Perceptions Index
Measures perceptions of the degree of corruption.

Reporters Without Borders
The Press Freedom Index.