A freedom of information act (FOIA) gives citizens access to information held by public bodies. They establish the citizens’ right to know and are a fundamental tool in fostering public accountability, says Diritto Di Sapere, an Italian NGO advocating for a new freedom of information law in Italy since its inception in 2012.
In July 2014, Diritto Di Sapere and about 30 other civil society organizations (among them CILD, the Italian Coalition for Civil Rights and Freedoms) launched #Foia4Italy, a joint effort aimed at producing a draft of a new and better law, a proper freedom of information act for Italy.
The process was entirely public and the draft was open to comments and edits for about four months.
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Why does Italy need a new FOIA?
The current access to information law in Italy dates from 1990, and is both inefficient and ineffective: the “right to know” only applies to citizens who are directly affected by an issue being investigated. Even then, in many cases, technicalities are claimed to be reasons to deny information to citizens, in spite of public interest.
Moreover, in many cases, requests do not receive a reply at all.
A 2013 report by Diritto Di Sapere analyzed more than 300 requests to public bodies and found that over 70% of requests were never replied to, and only 12% received a satisfactory reply.
“When filing FOIA requests in Italy, we often receive no answer, institutions ignore the requests and we bump up against a rubber wall,” said Guido Romeo, the president of Diritto Di Sapere, at a conference held last month in Varese, Italy.
A few weeks ago, the anti-corruption organization Transparency International published the 2014 installment of their Corruption Perception Index, where Italy came in 69th, a poor performance replicating that from last year.
FOIA is a founding pillar of open government and it would be key in the government's fight against corruption, believes Davide Del Monte, director of the Italian chapter of Transparency International.
The Foia4Italy initiative has completed the drafting process of a law that will be presented to the government next month. A campaign advocating for an adoption of the law will soon follow, with the strong support of CILD.