Press Release 10/2011
Date: 02 April 2011
The Institute of Maltese Journalists (IGM) appeals to the Government to fully bring into force the Freedom of Information Act that was approved by parliament in 2008.
According to OPM Circular No 14/2010, issued by the Principal Permanent Secretary Dr Godwin Grima, the FOI Act was meant to come into force on 31 August, 2010. This was quoted and reproduced on the European Public Sector Information Platform website (http://www.epsiplus.net/news/news/malta_prepares_for_foi_act).
Yet the legislation, for which the IGM had contributed with a detailed position paper on the White Paper on the draft bill way back in 2007, has not come into force a full seven months later.
The IGM feels that more than enough time has elapsed for the Public Service to have prepared and published the information asset lists defined in the FOI Act, especially since Legal Notice LN 218/2009 bound all public authorities to publish all categories of documents held by them by 31 July, 2010. Failure by the Government to publish this information means it is breaking the law.
“The Maltese media, as well as the public, have a right to access information according to the FOI Act and any further delay means that the rights of the media and the public are being infringed,” Malcolm J Naudi, Chairman of the IGM, said in a statement.
“The Institute had played an important role in the discussions on the Freedom of Information White Paper, with input from the Commonwealth Press Union and other associate bodies, so we feel that it is imperative that the FOI Act be brought into force without delay.
“Government enthusiasm to introduce the FOI Act appears to have waned. The Public Service has had more than enough time to build the structures necessary and any infringements of the law need to be rectified forthwith.”
Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi had said on 18 July, 2007, that this legislation would change the way in which information held by ministries, departments, agencies and other government entities would be treated. This information would become subject to public disclosure, with the exception of cases where valid and justified reasons specified by the law prevented this. The Prime Minister had also stated that only those who had something to hide were considering this law as a risk.
The IGM points out that the official website of the Freedom of Information Act (www.foi.gov.mt), which provides explanations on the different ways to submit requests for information, emphasises that no requests can be submitted for the time being as the law is not yet fully in force.