Italy gets its first Freedom of Information Act – but will it work?

by Gianna Iacino

In May 2016, the Italian Government passed the Freedom of Information Act. The law foresees the right of every citizen to request information from public authorities without having to give a reason.

Legal archives_900X600 Italy just got its first Freedom of Information Act, requiring authorities to provide information to citizens free of charge and to give an explanation if denying it. (Photo: public domain)

The organisation Foia4Italy (Freedom of Information Act for Italy), comprised of 32 civil society groups, lobbied for the first-ever Freedom of Information Act in Italy. It will enter into force in December 2016.

The first draft of the law, published in January 2016, did not implement most of Foia4Italy’s requests. However, the final version of the law is much closer to the organisation's ideas.

Under the new law, the authorities have to provide the information to citizens free of charge. Only costs incurred because of copying and sending information by mail can be imposed.

Therefore, electronic requests for information are completely free of charge.

If the authority wants to reject the request, it has to give an explanation. In that case, citizens have the right to a review by a transparency supervisor. Additionally, they can appeal the rejection to a local ombudsman.

Foia4Italy criticises the law due to the fact that not all regions in Italy have such an ombudsman. Another point of criticism is that the law does not foresee any sanctions in case it is breached by those responsible among the public authorities.

Foia4Italy announced that it would monitor the practical implementation of the law by the authorities.

Gianna Iacino, LL.M., is a specialist member of staff at the European Institute for Media Law in Saarbrücken and Brussels.

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The Freedom of Information Act is available in Italian language here.

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Source information: This article was originally published by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom –