Madrid/Nicosia, 3 July 2014 – Access Info Europe has called upon the Republic of Cyprus to significantly improve the recently proposed draft law on access to information to come into line with international standards, in recommendations submitted as part of a public consultation.

In the submission made this week to the consultation, Access Info welcomed the decision of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus to propose the adoption of a legal framework to facilitate the exercise of the right of access to information. The civil society organisation did make it clear that the scope of the current text however, only available in Greek, is limited. It does not recognise access to information as a fundamental right, it excludes many public institutions and branches of government, there is no appeal mechanism through an information commissioner to challenge denials for disclosure, and requesters will be required to produce identification to make a request.

This is a particularly pressing issue as there are 98 countries in the world with access to information laws and Cyprus is one of only two countries in the European Union without such a law, denying citizens their fundamental right,” stated Helen Darbishire, Executive Director, Access Info Europe.

Following revision of the text in its original language, aided by Cypriot civil society organisation Politeia, Access Info submitted to the Minister for Justice and Public Order of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr Ionas Nikolaou, 10 general recommendations. These are:
»    Recognise access to information as a fundamental right.
»    Recognise that all the information held in any format by all institutions, are public by nature.
»    The law on access to information must include all public institutions and bodies, including the executive, legislation, judiciary, and private bodies carrying out public functions or funded with public funds.
»    Remove the requirement to present identification in order to make a request for access to information.
»    Ensure that the process for requesting information is free for the public.
»    Reduce the number of working days to answer an access to information request to the European average of 15 working days, or lower.
»    Completely revise and reduce the exceptions of the draft law in order to bring it into line with international standards.
»    Any Information Commissioner should be independently appointed. Secondly, the Information Commissioner should be empowered to overrule the decisions of public bodies who decide to refuse access to information, and for these decisions to be binding.
»    The appeals system should include a mechanism for requesters to appeal for free to the Information Commissioner, in addition to eventual recourse to the courts.

In 2011, Access Info Europe published a study on the state of transparency in Cyprus which highlighted the urgent need for the Republic to adopt an access to information law and to significantly improve levels of transparency in practice. This study was produced in association with Cypriot NGOs as part of a European Union project.

A full copy of the letter can be read here.

The draft law (only available in Greek) can be read here.

For more information, please contact:

Andreas Pavlou | Access Info Europe +34 913 656 558