Journalists and Lawyers Help Representatives of Media to Access Public Information
In the near future Discover Georgia-Journalistic Center and the Center for the Protection of Constitutional Rights, Georgian NGOs will present a group of journalists and lawyers which will help the representatives of mass media in overcoming the many difficulties encountered in accessing public information.
The formation of the group was settled on the meeting in art café “Griboedovis 14” on June 7, 2008. The meeting was attended by the editors of various newspapers and news agencies as well as journalists and NGO representatives. The meeting was organized by Discover Georgia-Journalistic Center and the Center for the Protection of Constitutional Rights, the NGOs. These NGOs implement the project named “Freedom of Information” supported by Adam Smith International and British-Georgian Net (UGPN).
This project envisages granting free legal assistance to media organizations when they face problems in accessing public information. Attorneys’ service as well as court fee will be covered from the project’s budget.
Free legal aid for journalists will be provided during the realization of the right guaranteed under the Article 24 of the Georgian Constitution. The right shall be breached when the state institutions prevent journalists from obtaining public information.
Aleko Tskitishvili, journalist (Discover Georgia-Journalistic Center) stated at the meeting that the activities prescribed by the project would be effective only when journalists react adequately on the incidents of hiding public information. The adequate reaction he thinks will be filing an appeal in court.
Aleko Tskitishvili states that when journalists do not receive public information from state body they do not use the opportunity of suing the responsible officers within the state body as they think that the head of this state body will not punish his subordinate, the responsible officer for public information for breaching the right of freedom of public information. Tskitishvili states that journalists do not believe the court will not satisfy their appeal over the deprivation of the right to access public information as well. Aleko Tskitishvili names another reason why journalists do not sue in court: court fees are high. The representatives of media must pay 100 GEL when they file administrative appeal against public officers. According to General Administrative Code of Georgia state body must give public information immediately after receiving the request and not longer than 10 days. If the state body needs 10 days to give public information then the state body must inform the applicant immediately after having received the application. Applicant must be informed immediately about the refusal as well. Under conditions when the applicant is refused access to information in three days the state body must inform the applicant about his rights and the procedures to make an appeal over the state body’s decision and/or refusal. The name of the department or the entire institution is consulted as to why public information was not provided.
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