Italy Needs a Proper Freedom of Information Act!

The long-awaited law regulating freedom of information is currently being discussed by the Italian government, but civil society organizations say the current text is inadequate and would prove useless.
Italy is one of the very few Western democracies that does not recognize the right to know through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The right to access to information is indeed regulated through a complex and unsatisfactory set of rules, which guarantees the right to know not to all citizens but only to those "directly affected" by the concerned issue.

A proper FOIA

In the summer of 2014, a group of more than 30 civil society organizations - including Diritto di Sapere, Transparency International Italia and the Italian Coalition for Civil Rights and Freedoms - launched the campaign #FOIA4Italy, demanding the prompt implementation of a new law effectively ensuring the right to information to each and every citizen. A proposed law has been put forward, and a dedicated petition has collected more than 42,000 signatures.

Most recently, civil society organizations have reiterated, by presenting the Transparent Agenda 2016, how an FOIA is a key priority for the legislature.

Take the FOIA seriously

During his inaugural speech as prime minister, Matteo Renzi made a commitment to address the problem of ensuring effective access to information for citizens. Almost two years have passed and, after many promises and even more delays, the Italian government is now finally discussing the "Madia Decree." A first version of the decree was approved several days ago and some journalists managed to acquire this draft text.

Civil society organizations have raised concern over the fact that the proposed law presents many critical aspects. If it is approved as it is now, it will not suffice in effectively ensuring citizens' right to access information.

In fact, a joint communication by members of the FOIA4Italy coalition highlights how the current draft of the Madia Decree fails to meet the 10 fundamental points for an effective FOIA and instead sets down a rather jumbled regulation, which would not be fit at all to improve the current state of affairs with regard to transparency and access to information: the proposed model of "civic access" is indeed extremely weakened by the endless list of exceptions and the lack of sanctions.

In other words, the law as it stands now would be useless. For this reason, civil society organizations are asking the Italian government to promptly modify the text and approve a better law: Italy needs a proper FOIA!