Constitutional Amendments Proposed by the Ministry of Justice Restrict Access to Public Information
It has come to our knowledge that the Parliament of Georgia may follow the initiative proposed by the Ministry of Justice to amend the text of the new Constitution and lower the constitutional standard of access to public information.
The 2017 constitutional amendments retained the provision stating that access to public information may be restricted if the information is a state, commercial, professional or personal secret. This provision specified the types of classified information, while the state took the responsibility not to restrict access to public information without due substantiation. The Ministry of Justice has proposed removing this list of specific types of classified information and replacing it with a wording that is vague and legally faulty.
The Parliament of Georgia has stated that the constitutional amendments are aimed at reflecting the recommendations of the Venice Commission. The initiative proposed by the Ministry of Justice does not serve the same purpose, since the Venice Commission evaluated the Human Rights Chapter of the Constitution alone and did not issue any comments regarding the article the Ministry of Justice has proposed changes to. The Ministry also did not criticize this article in the spring of 2017, when the constitutional reform was ongoing.
We would like to remind the Members of Parliament that Georgia, being the Chair of the Open Government Partnership, is obligated to refine and improve its freedom of information legislation, rather than weaken it. Especially unfortunate is the fact that the proposal to considerably restrict freedom of information in the country belongs to the Ministry of Justice, which serves as the Secretariat of the Open Government Partnership.
We call on the Parliament of Georgia to turn down the proposal offered by the Ministry of Justice, which will limit freedom of information and weaken the right to access to public information in Georgia.
Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI)
Georgian Young Lawyers' Association
Open Society Georgia Foundation
Transparency International Georgia
Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy
Georgian Democracy Initiative
Article 42 of the Constitution
Civil Development Agency
Partnership for Human Rights
Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics