Tech & Rights

Italy Approves Its First Freedom of Information Act

The new law – the first of its kind in Italy – will enter into force in six months, but civil society organizations are already busy informing citizens of their rights.

by Claudio Cesarano
(Image: Marino González)
The Italian government has approved a new law on transparency that grants everyone the right to access documents held by public bodies.

Italy's new Freedom of Information Act, published yesterday by many newspapers, shows major improvements compared to the first version circulated in January. Many of the faults highlighted by Foia4Italy, the network of 32 NGOs pushing for an Italian FOIA, were addressed and changed in the final version:

  1. Administrative silence was abrogated: public bodies have the duty to state a reason for their refusal
  2. Requesters don’t have to specify “precisely” what documents they are looking for
  3. Inspection of documents and electronic copies are free: fees are limited to the cost of reproducing and sending the information
  4. In case of refusal, requesters, aside from administrative justice, can ask for an internal review to the “Responsabile per la Trasparenza” (transparency supervisor) and appeal to the “difensore civico,” the local ombudsman
  5. Exceptions will be redefined and limited by guidelines written by the National Authority Against Corruption

This is just the beginning

While Foia4Italy praises the improvements, the law still has some handicaps, like the lack of sanctions for public bodies that illegitimately refuse to disclose documents and the absence of an ombudsman in many Italian regions. Moreover, some of the duties on proactive transparency were reduced or limited.

The law will enter into force six months after being published in the official gazette: this period was considered necessary for public bodies to conform to the new provisions on transparency and for the draft of the guidelines on how to apply the exceptions. In the coming months the Foia4Italy network, will:

  1. Monitor the drafting of the guidelines by the anti-corruption authority
  2. Once in force, start a monitoring study of the implementation of the law
  3. Continue its work of spreading knowledge of this right to citizens, journalists and activists.