By George Psyllides
The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) has joined Access Info Europe (AIE) in calling on the government to improve its access to information bill to meet international transparency standards.
According to the global Right to Info Rating, the Republic of Cyprus freedom of information bill is set to become one of the worst in Europe, EFJ said in a statement.
AIE and the Centre for Law and Democracy studied the draft text using the 61 indicators of the Right to Information Rating and found that Cyprus scored 57 points — out of 150 – placing it near the bottom of the rank at 97, out of 102 countries globally.
The EFJ urged the government of Cyprus to improve the current draft so that journalists can carry out their duties as watchdogs and public can exercise their rights to information.
The RTI Rating website provides updated results on 102 countries with national right to information laws. However, the rating is only limited to measuring the legal framework, and does not measure quality of implementation.
In Europe, Serbia and Slovenia retain top positions in the updated rating, while Austria, Germany, Italy and Belgium languish in bottom places.
The bill contains 22 exceptions to access to information, many of which are vague and/or broad, and nine of which are absolute, despite international standards requiring that all exceptions are subject to a harm test and public interest test.
Among its few positive elements the draft includes limited provisions for proactive publication, and a broad definition of ‘information.’
A 2011 report by AIE and Cypriot partners found that over 70 per cent of requests sent to public bodies in the Republic result in administrative silence, whilst only 7 per cent of answers contained the information requested.
Currently, Cyprus is one of only two countries in Europe, along with Luxembourg, without an access to information law, the other being Luxembourg, which has a draft law in the Parliament.