2008 Turkey FOI Report published

BilgiEdinmeHakki.Org Press Release: 08.05.2008

A report prepared by Dr. Yaman Akdeniz entitled Freedom of Information in Turkey: A Critical Assessment of the Implementation and Application of the Right to Information Act 2003 is made available by BilgiEdinmeHakki.Org, a Turkish pressure group on 08 May, 2008.

The report incorporates data and research gathered between 2004-2008, and provides a detailed analysis of the implementation and application of the Right to Information Act in Turkey. High numbers of right to information applications between 2004-2006 (1,886,962 in total) suggest wider awareness of the existence of the law and the availability of a right to information and access to official documents in Turkey.

The report includes an assessment of the work of the Turkish Right to Information Review Council (BEDK) between June 2004 and March 2008 as well as the assessment of the implementation of the law by central and local government agencies. The report further assesses whether the enactment of a freedom of information law in Turkey helped to achieve an open and transparent regulatory process and whether the new law promotes openness and good practice within government institutions in terms of provision of information.

The report highlights both positive and negative observations with regards to the application and implementation of the Right to Information Act and provides a set of recommendations for improvement of the application of the Right to Information Act in Turkey.

The author of the report, Dr. Yaman Akdeniz, stated that “Although the enactment of the Right to Information Act is a very important step towards openness, transparency, and democratisation in Turkey, the report has identified several problems with the application of the law. As the report will show despite Right to Information Review Council decisions and administrative court orders, there is still resistance to give information, and a high number of public authorities are disputing Council decisions, either by ignoring them, or by appealing to administrative courts to challenge such decisions. Therefore, there needs to be significant improvements to the current system to break down the culture of secrecy and resistance to provide information.”

The report is available at http://www.bilgiedinmehakki.org/doc/Turkey_FOI_2008_Report.pdf
For further information see the Turkish Right to Information Blog: http://foia.bilgiedinmehakki.info
Dr. Yaman Akdeniz can be contacted at akdeniz@bilgiedinmehakki.org

Dr. Yaman Akdeniz is a senior lecturer in law at the School of Law, University of Leeds, United Kingdom. Dr. Akdeniz has been following the enactment of the Turkish Right to Information Act 2003 which came into force on 24 April, 2004 since its inception. He has been a freedom of information activist since 1998 and is also the co-founder of the BilgiEdinmeHakki.Org pressure group which monitors the implementation and application of the Turkish law since 2003.

BilgiEdinmeHakki.Org (www.bilgiedinmehakki.org) has been set up as a pressure group on 09 October, 2003, the day the Turkish Government enacted the Right to Information Act 2003 (No: 4982) to ensure that the Act is effectively used by the Turkish citizens and a greater degree of openness and transparency is established in Turkey as part of its democratization. Bilgi Edinme Hakki stands for Right to Information in Turkish, and the name of the organisation is based upon the Turkish Act.

2008 Turkey FOI Report Published

BilgiEdinmeHakki.Org Press Release: 08.05.2008

A report prepared by Dr. Yaman Akdeniz entitled Freedom of Information in Turkey: A Critical Assessment of the Implementation and Application of the Right to Information Act 2003 is made available by BilgiEdinmeHakki.Org, a Turkish pressure group on 08 May, 2008.

The report incorporates data and research gathered between 2004-2008, and provides a detailed analysis of the implementation and application of the Right to Information Act in Turkey. High numbers of right to information applications between 2004-2006 (1,886,962 in total) suggest wider awareness of the existence of the law and the availability of a right to information and access to official documents in Turkey.

The report includes an assessment of the work of the Turkish Right to Information Review Council (BEDK) between June 2004 and March 2008 as well as the assessment of the implementation of the law by central and local government agencies. The report further assesses whether the enactment of a freedom of information law in Turkey helped to achieve an open and transparent regulatory process and whether the new law promotes openness and good practice within government institutions in terms of provision of information.

The report highlights both positive and negative observations with regards to the application and implementation of the Right to Information Act and provides a set of recommendations for improvement of the application of the Right to Information Act in Turkey.

The author of the report, Dr. Yaman Akdeniz, stated that “Although the enactment of the Right to Information Act is a very important step towards openness, transparency, and democratisation in Turkey, the report has identified several problems with the application of the law. As the report will show despite Right to Information Review Council decisions and administrative court orders, there is still resistance to give information, and a high number of public authorities are disputing Council decisions, either by ignoring them, or by appealing to administrative courts to challenge such decisions. Therefore, there needs to be significant improvements to the current system to break down the culture of secrecy and resistance to provide information.”

The report is available at http://www.bilgiedinmehakki.org/doc/Turkey_FOI_2008_Report.pdf
For further information see the Turkish Right to Information Blog: http://foia.bilgiedinmehakki.info
Dr. Yaman Akdeniz can be contacted at akdeniz@bilgiedinmehakki.org

Dr. Yaman Akdeniz is a senior lecturer in law at the School of Law, University of Leeds, United Kingdom. Dr. Akdeniz has been following the enactment of the Turkish Right to Information Act 2003 which came into force on 24 April, 2004 since its inception. He has been a freedom of information activist since 1998 and is also the co-founder of the BilgiEdinmeHakki.Org pressure group which monitors the implementation and application of the Turkish law since 2003.

BilgiEdinmeHakki.Org (www.bilgiedinmehakki.org) has been set up as a pressure group on 09 October, 2003, the day the Turkish Government enacted the Right to Information Act 2003 (No: 4982) to ensure that the Act is effectively used by the Turkish citizens and a greater degree of openness and transparency is established in Turkey as part of its democratization. Bilgi Edinme Hakki stands for Right to Information in Turkish, and the name of the organisation is based upon the Turkish Act.

Turkish Right to Information Blog

This new blog is set up by Dr. Yaman Akdeniz who is a senior lecturer in law at the School of Law, Universit of Leeds, United Kingdom. Yaman has been following the enactment of the Turkish Right to Information Act 2003 which came into force on 24 April, 2004 since its inception. He has been a freedom of information activist since 1998 and is also the co-founder of the BilgiEdinmeHakki.Org pressure group which monitors the implementation and application of the Turkish law since 2003.

While the BilgiEdinmeHakki.Org pages are predominantly in Turkish this new blog at foia.bilgiedinmehakki.infowill provide information about the Turkish developments in English. It is my intention to inform the world at large about the freedom of information related developments from Turkey.

Turkish Right to Information Assessment Council started to publish its decisions.

BilgiEdinmeHakki.Org Press Release (12 March, 2007)
Subject: Turkish Right to Information Assessment (Review) Council started to publish its decisions.

BilgiEdinmeHakki.Org (www.bilgiedinmehakki.org), a Turkish pressure group, played a crucial role in ensuring that the decisions of the Turkish Right to Information Assessment (Review) Council are finally made public. BilgiEdinmeHakki.Org has lodged several freedom of information requests to the Turkish Council since August 2004 (requests dated: 03/08/2004, 29/06/2005, 16/02/2006, 21/02/2007) but the Council either failed to publish, or denied access to its decisions.

However, the Council decided to change its policy in terms of the publications of its decisions following BilgiEdinmeHakki.Org’s most recent request dated 21 February, 2007. It was revealed that the Council will start publishing all its decisions from 09 March, 2007, the day the Council’s decision (B.02.0.BHİ.796.001/203) was sent to BilgiEdinmeHakki.Org.

The Council in its reponse to BilgiEdinmeHakki.Org revealed that it has made 2475 decisions in relation to freedom of information appeals from the members of the public between 24/05/2004 – 26/02/2007.Until 09 March, 2007 only 74 of these were made available, and these were published in December 2004. Since then no further decisions of the Council were made public. On 09 March, 2007 the Council published 28 of its 69 decision books containing 641 decisions out of the 2475 decisions (roughly 495 pages in length). These involve the decisions made by the Council between 07. 06.2004 and 15.06.2005.

BilgiEdinmeHakki.Org requested further information from the Council on 12 March, 2007 in terms of when the remaining 41 decision books containing approximately 1834 decisions made by the Council between 15.06.2005 and 26.02.2007 will be made public.

BilgiEdinmeHakki.Org also requested detailed statistics from the Council and the following information was provided:

  • Total number of appeal applications to the Council between 24/05/2004 – 26/02/2007: 2,676
  • Number of applications proceeded: 2,321
  • Number of applications rejected: 355
  • Total Number of Council decisions between 24/05/2004 – 26/02/2007: 2,475
  • Total Number of successful appeals: 977
  • Total Number of partially successful appeals: 419
  • Total number of rejected appeals: 888
  • Total number of appeals in which further review was necessary: 10
  • Total number of appeal applications to be discussed by the Council: 213

Despite limited resources, BilgiEdinmeHakki.Org will start a new project assessing the decisions of the Turkish Right to Information Assessment Council. Dr. Yaman Akdeniz, on the behalf of the Turkish pressure group stated that “despite considerable and unacceptable delay, the publication of the Council’s decisions is a significant step towards openness and transparency in Turkey. We are now in a better position to assess the work of the Council as well as the functioning of the Turkish Right to Information Act 2003 (No: 4982). However, the remaining decisions need to be published swiftly and further requests for information has already been lodged with the Council to ensure that.”

Notes for the Release:

Contact: Dr. Yaman Akdeniz & Av. Avniye Tansuğ – akdeniz@bilgiedinmehakki.org

This press release will be available through: http://www.bilgiedinmehakki.org/en/

A PDF version of this release is also available at http://www.bilgiedinmehakki.org/doc/2007_01ENG.pdf

The Council’s decisions can be obtained through http://www.basbakanlik.gov.tr/sour.ce/index.asp?wpg=detay&did=838831BA-3CA1-4403-8789-CBF96C7A8B19 – These are provided only in Turkish.

A PDF single document version of the Council decisions (in Turkish) is available athttp://www.bilgiedinmehakki.org/doc/BEDK_kararlar.pdf

BilgiEdinmeHakki.Org (www.bilgiedinmehakki.org ) has been set up as a pressure group on 09 October, 2003, the day the Turkish Government enacted the Right to Information Act 2003 (No: 4982) to ensure that the Act is effectively used by the Turkish citizens and a greater degree of openness and transparency is established in Turkey as part of its democratization. Bilgi Edinme Hakki stands for Right to Information in Turkish, and the name of the organisation is based upon the Turkish Act.

Right to Information Act 2003
The Turkish Parliament enacted the Right to Information Act 2003, Bilgi Edinme Hakki Kanunu (No: 4982) in October 2003. The Right to Information Act 2003 came into force six months after the date of its publication on 24 April, 2004.

Right to Information Assessment (Review) Council

The formation of the Right to Information Assessment (Review) Council was required by article 14 of the Turkish Act and the Council reviews the administrative decisions rendered under the Act and makes decisions on the exercise of the right to information regarding public authorities.

The Procedure for Appeal
Within 15 days starting from the official notification from a public institution, an applicant whose request for access to information is rejected, may appeal to the Council before appealing for judicial review. The law requires that the Council shall render a decision within 30 days.

State Secret Law may encourage deputies to do their job on arms purchases…

When there is no parliamentary scrutiny or independent auditing mechanism, it becomes extremely hard to know if Turkey’s political and military decision makers are making the right choices while selecting the arms systems required by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) to defend the country. Past and current experiences, as well as data on the current strength of the local industry in producing military technology, have proven that in many arms purchases decisions Turkey ends up making the wrong choices mainly because of the lack of accountability and transparency in the process culminating with their acquisition.
Among several examples of such ill-defined decisions are Eryx anti-tank missiles, over which Turkey’s Defense Industries Undersecretariat (SSM) and French missile maker MBDA are now in a Geneva arbitration court to solve the dispute.
In 2004, MBDA took Turkey to the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce in Geneva on grounds that Turkey had allegedly violated contract terms when it cancelled a $486.5 million worth, 10-year-long program for the purchase of Eryx missiles.

Whoever wins the court case in the end does not change the fact that this agreement back in 1998 was signed by generals who claimed at the time that those missiles were needed. It is true that some defects occurred in MBDA missiles during tests in 2004. But terminating the contract on grounds that the Turkish military did not need them anymore does not seem to be very serious as the cancellation of the contract has already been imposing a serious burden on the Turkish tax payers, if not causing weakness within the TSK.

Even the existing mechanisms for democratic civilian oversight of arms purchases could prevent the repetition of such mistakes, provided that deputies have the courage to do so. On the local military technology level there is no bright picture either. Though Turkey has been earmarking around $4 billion per year for arms purchases, the country is dependent on foreign sources for an almost 80 percent for main systems, an unacceptable situation as stated several times by SSM Undersecretary Murat Bayar.

Well, this is of course an unacceptable situation. But how long should this unaccountability on arms purchases last as the country has been striving to adjust its economy to address the increased discrepancy between rich and poor? If members of parliament are not even exercising their already existing rights to debate multi-billion dollar arms purchases, who will do that for the sake of the people who have been generous enough to keep quiet over arms purchases while shouldering the burden themselves?

We, however, should not lose hope. For example, Turkish government spokesperson and Minister of Justice Cemil Çiçek announced on Feb. 26 that several amendments were made to the existing State Secrets Law that will pave the way to make information regarded as secret in the past available to the public. A State Secret Board headed by Prime Minister Erdoğan, comprising of the foreign affairs, justice, interior, as well as the national defense ministers, will be set up. It will decide which documents and information constitute state secrets.

I hope that this board will also play a role in breaking taboos on arms purchases, encouraging deputies to use their already existing authority to debate arms purchases while relaxing the strict rules existing on access to even simple military information. Amendments to the law, I hope, will also open the way for bureaucrats to be obliged to give information to the related authorities on suspected files.

But if we take into consideration the fact that Parliament could not pass a law last year that would have allowed the Court of Auditors to oversee the state property (land, facilities and arms) of the TSK under amendments made to Article 160 of the Constitution because of disagreements between ruling and opposition deputies, difficulties before democratic civilian oversight of the military can be observed.

Perhaps the State Secret Board may encourage deputies to do their job instead of wasting time with rhetoric as they did during the November 2006 debate on the Ministry of National Defense 2007 fiscal year budget at the Parliamentary Budget and Planning Commission.

http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/yazarDetay.do?haberno=104185

Turkish Law On The Right To Information, Law No: 4982

PART ONE

Object, Scope and Definitions

Object
Article 1 – The object of this law is to regulate the procedure and the basis of the right to information according to the principles of equality, impartiality and openness that are the necessities of a democratic and transparent government.

Scope
Article 2 – This law is applied to the activities of the public institutions and the professional organisations which qualify as public institutions.

The provisions of the Law on the Use of the Right to Petition (date:01.11.1984, No: 3071) are reserved.

Definitions
Article 3 – The terms used in the law means following:

a) Institutions: All the authorities that can be included under article 2 of this law.
b) Applicant: All natural and legal persons who apply to the institutions by way of exercising the right to information and
c) Information: Every kind of data that is within the scope of this law and are included in the records of the institutions.
d) Document: Any written, printed or copied file, document, book, journal, brochure, etude, letter, software, instruction, sketch, plan, film, photograph, tape and video cassette, map of the institutions and the information, news and other data that are recorded and saved in electronic format that are within the scope of this law.
e) Access to information and document: Depending on the nature of the information and the document, providing a copy of the information or the document to the applicant; in cases were it is not possible to give a copy, permitting the applicant to examine the original information or the document and to take notes or to see the contents, or to listen to.
f) Board: The Board of Review of Access to Information

 

PART TWO

Right to Information and the Obligation to Provide Information

Right to Information
Article 4 – Everyone has the right to information.

Foreigners domiciled in Turkey and the foreign legal entities operating in Turkey can exercise the right in this law, on the condition that the information that they require is related to them or the field of their activities; and on the basis of the principle of reciprocity.

The rights and the obligations of Turkey under the international conventions are reserved.

The Obligation to Provide Information
Article 5 – The institutions are required to apply administrative and technical measures to provide every kind of information and document, with the exceptions set out in this law, to provide the information for applicants; and to review and decide on the applications for access information promptly, effectively and correctly.

The other legal regulations which are incompatible with the provisions contained herein shall cease to be applicable as of the date this Act comes into force

 

PART THREE

Application for Access to Information

Procedure of Application
Article 6 – The application for the access to information is made through a petition that includes the name, surname, residence or the work address of the applicant and the signature; where the applicant is a company, its title and the address, and the signature of the authorised person together with a certificate of authorisation, to the institution that possesses the information or the document. The application can be made also through electronic or other types of communication tools, if the identity and the signature of the applicant can be legally determined.

The information and the document that is required must be specified in the petition.

The Quality of the Information or the Document that can be required
Article 7 – The application for access to information should relate to the information or the document that the institutions which are applied posses or should have possessed due to their tasks and activities.

The institutions may turn down the applications for any information or document that require a separate or special work, research, examination or analysis.

Where the required information or the document is at an institution other than the one that is applied, the petition will be sent to the relevant institution and the applicant will be notified accordingly.

The Information and Documents that are Published or Disclosed to the Public
Article 8 – The information and documents that are published or disclosed to the public either through publication, brochure, proclamation or other similar means, may not be made the subject of an application for access to information. However, the applicant will be informed of the date, the means and the place of the publication or disclosure of the information or the document.

Exempting the Classified Information
Article 9 – Were the required information or the document contain classified elements, such information shall be set a aside if separable and the applicant shall be notified of the grounds for this exemption.

Access to the Information or the Document
Article 10 – Institutions give a certified copy of the required document to the applicant.

Where the information or the document is not appropriate for copying or may cause damage to the original, the institution will provide the applicant with the necessary means;

a) to examine the original document and take notes for those that are published or written,
b) to listen to the material that are in the form of sound recording,
c) to watch the material that are in the form of visual recording.

Where the access to the information or document require other means than those mentioned above, such information or document shall be provided unless it damages the original material.

The applied institution, will charge the applicant for the cost of the procedure, to be added as an income to the budget.

The time limits for access to information or document
Article 11 – The institutions shall provide the required information within 15 working days. However, where the required information or document is to be obtained from another unit within the applied institution or it is necessary to receive the opinion of another institution or if the scope of the application pertains more than one institution; the access shall be provided in 30 working days. In such case, the applicant will be notified of the extension and its reasons within 15 working days.

The 15 working days time limit shall be suspended at the time when applicant is notified of the cost for the access to the information or the document stated in Article10. The applicant will be considered to have withdrawn the application unless the cost is paid within the next 15 working days.

Response to the Application
Article 12 – Institutions notify the applicants, or inform them in electronic format, of the result of their applications regarding access to information. If the application is rejected the applicant will be notified of the reasons and the appeal mechanism against the decision.

The Procedure for Appeal
Article 13 – Within 15 days starting from the official notification, the applicant whose application for access to information is rejected due to the reasons under Articles 16 and 17, may appeal to the Board before appealing for judicial review. The Board shall render a decision within 30 days. The institutions are obliged to provide every kind of information and document that are required by the Board within 15 days.

Appeal to the Board suspends the time limit to refer to the administrative jurisdiction.

The Board of Review of the Access to Information
Article 14 – The Board of Review of the Access to Information reviews the administrative decisions rendered under Articles 16 and 17, and makes decisions regarding institutions on the exercise of right to information.

The Board is composed of 9 members. The Council of Ministers, appoint two members amongst the four candidates nominated by the General Board of the Court of Appeals and the Council of State from their members; three members, each amongst the scholars of criminal, constitutional and administrative law who bear the title Professor or Associate Professors; one member among the two candidates that have the qualifications to be elected as chief of bar and are nominated by the Turkish Bar Association, two members amongst those who have been serving as general director; and a member among judges in service of the Ministry of Justice as recommended by the Minister.

Nomination is subject to the approval of the candidates.

The Board president is appointed by the Council of Ministers among the Board members.

The Board convenes at least once a month or anytime upon the call of the President when there is need.

Board Members serve for four years. The members, who complete their time may be re-elected. In the event that a member leaves before four years, the new member who is elected with the same procedure to replace the leaving member, completes the period of the member that s/he has replaced. The former Board operates until the new Board starts to operate.

With reservation to the provisions of the Act No: 6245 dated 10.02.1954, Board members who already bear the title of public officer are paid the amount found as 2000 multiplied by public officer payment coefficient while those who do not qualify as public officer receives the amount multiplied by 1000. Those payments are exempt from any tax but only stamp tax.

The Board can set up commissions and working groups and in addition may invite representatives from the ministries, non-governmental organisations and other institutions to participate in the meetings as it finds appropriate.

The secretarial services of the Board are executed by the Prime Ministry.

The Prime Ministry prepares and puts into force the regulation concerning the procedure and the basis for the activities and tasks of the Board.

PART FOUR

The Restrictions on the Right to Information

The Transactions that are not subject to the Judicial Review
Article 15 – The transactions that are not subject to the judicial review, those that affect the working life and professional honour of the persons, are within the scope of this law. The right to information provided in this way, does not eliminate the restriction regarding the judicial review of the transaction.

The Information and Documents Pertaining the State Secrets
Article 16-
The information and documents which qualify as state secrets which their disclosure clearly cause harm to the security of the state or foreign affairs or national defence and national security are out of the scope of the right to information provided herein.

The Information and Documents Pertaining the Economical Interests of the State
Article 17- The information or documents of which their disclosure cause harm to the economical interests of the state or will cause unfair competition or enrichment, are out of the scope of this law.

The Information and Documents Pertaining the State Intelligence
Article 18-
The information and documents regarding the duties and activities of the civil and military intelligence units, are out of the scope of this law.

However the information and documents, that affect the professional honour and working life of the persons, are within the scope of right to information.

The Information and Documents Pertaining he Administrative Investigation
Article 19- The information or the document that is related to the administrative investigation held by the administrative authorities and which will;

a) clearly violate the right of privacy of the individuals,
b) endanger the security or the life of the individuals or the officials that carry out the investigation,
c) jeopardise the security of the investigation,
d) disclose the source of the information which needs to be kept secret, or endanger the procurement of similar information in connection with the investigation,

are out of the scope of this Law.

The Information or Documents Pertaining the Judicial Investigation and Prosecution
Article 20- The information or the document of which its disclosure or untimely disclosure will

a) give rise to a criminal offence,
b) endanger prevention and investigation of the crime or endanger the legal procedure for the detention and the prosecution of the criminals,
c) obstruct the proper operation judicial duty.
d) violate right to fair trial of a defendant in a pending case

are out of the scope of this law.

The provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Date: 4/4/1929, No:1412), Code of Civil Procedure (Date:18/6/1927, No: 1086), Code of Procedure of Administrative Jurisdiction (Date: 6/1/1982, No: 2577) and the provisions contained in other specific regulations are exempted from this Law.

Privacy of the Individuals
Article 21-
With the proviso where the consent of the concerned individual has been received, the information and documents that will unjustly interfere with the health records, private and family life, honour and dignity, and the economical and professional interests of an individual, are out of the scope of the right to information.

Due to public interest considerations, personal information or documents may be disclosed by the institutions on the condition that concerned individual is notified of the disclosure at least 7 days in advance and his/her written consent is obtained.

The Privacy of Communication
Article 22-
The information and documents that will violate the privacy of communication, are out of the scope of this law.

Trade Secrets
Article 23- The information and documents that are qualified as commercial secret in laws, and the commercial and financial information that are obtained by the institutions from the private or corporate persons with the condition of keeping secret, are out of the scope of this law.

Intellectual Property (Works of Art and Science)
Article 24-
In the event of application for access to information concerning intellectual property, the relevant provisions of the intellectual property law shall apply.

Institutions’ Internal Regulations
Article 25- The information and documents of the institutions that do not concern the public and are solely in connection with their personnel and the internal affairs, are out of the scope of the right to information. However, the employees of the institutions who are subject the regulations have the right to access to such information.

Institutions’ Internal Opinions, Information Notes and Recommendations
Article 26-
The information and document qualified as opinion, information note, proposals and recommendations which facilitate the execution of the activities of the institutions are within the scope of the right to information, unless the opposite is decided by that institution.

The opinions of the units, individuals or institutions that are legally obliged to give reports on scientific, cultural, technical, medical, financial, statistical, legal and other similar expertise fields are within the scope of the right to information with the proviso that such opinions constitute the basis of administrative decisions taken by the institutions.

Requests for Recommendation and Opinions
Article 27- The requests for recommendations and opinions are out of the scope of this law.

Formerly Classified Information and Documents
Article 28- The information and documents which cease to be classified either by a judicial or administrative decision are open to the applications for access to information, with the proviso that they fall within the scope of the other exceptions provided in this law.

 

PART FIVE

Miscellaneous

Criminal Provisions
Article 29- Without prejudice to any prosecution to be conducted by virtue of general provisions of criminal law, the officials and other civil servants who negligently, recklessly or deliberately obstruct the application of this law, shall be subject to disciplinary sanctions as provided in the relevant regulations of personnel regime.

The information and documents that are obtained according to this law, cannot be copied and used for commercial interest.

Preparation of the Reports
Article 30-
The institutions shall prepare reports pertaining the previous year and that show,

a) the number of the applications on the access to information received by the institutions,
b) the number of the applications that the institutions accepted and provided access to information or document,
c) the number of the applications that are rejected and statistical information about their categorisation ,
d) the number of applications that are accepted and accordingly provided access to information which previously had been qualified as classified.
e) the number of the appeals to the decisions of rejection and the and their results,

and send them to the Board of Review of the Access to Information until the end of February, every year. The institutions that are associated, related or connected to another public legal entity send their reports through the ministry they are associated with. The Board prepare a general report and send it to the Turkish Grand National Assembly every year until the end of April, together with the reports received from the institutions. These reports are disclosed to the public by the Presidency of the Turkish Grand National Assembly in two months time.

Regulations
Article 31- The Regulation concerning the essentials for the application of this law shall be prepared by the Prime Ministry and put into force by the Council of Ministers within six months after the date that this law is published.

Entry into Force
Article 32- This law comes into force six months after the date of its publication.

Execution
Article 33-
The Council of Ministers executes the provisions of this law.

Turkey Enacts Freedom of Information Law

On 09 October, 2003, the Turkish government enacted the Right to Information Law (Law No: 4982). It was initially prepared by the Ministry of Justice and was introduced to the Parliament on 25 June, 2003. An important Parliamentary report by the EU Compatibility Commission of the Turkish Parliament was published on 16 July, 2003. Another report on the draft bill by the Justice Commission of the Turkish Parliament was also published on 24 July 2003.

237 Turkish MPs out of a total of 550 were present for the final voting on the Right to Information Bill and all of the present MPs (including from the opposition) voted for the Bill to become law.

The new law itself does not say anything on implementation and there will be further regulations published within the next six months clarifying issues related to implementation. The regulations will be prepared by the Prime Ministry and will be put into force by the Council of Ministers. This law will come into force six months after the date of its publication.

Following the enactment of the new law in Turkey, a Right to Information Assessment (Review) Council will be established to deal with appeals on rejected FOI requests.

The information and documents pertaining the state secrets, the economical interests of the state, the state intelligence, the administrative investigation, and the judicial investigation and prosecution are out of the scope of this law. Limitations also apply for the privacy of the individuals, privacy of communications, trade secrets, intellectual property (works of art and science), institutions’ internal regulations, and institutions’ internal opinions, information notes and recommendations.

“Although it is a very important first step towards openness and transparency the limits of this new right are not clearly defined by the new law. The meaning of “secrecy” will be clarified by means of a separate legislation on “secrecy” that is currently being drafted by the Ministry of Justice. So it remains to be seen how transparent the government will be in Turkey” said Dr. Yaman Akdeniz.

The implementation and application of the Right to Information Act by the Turkish Ministries

Bilgiedinmehakki.org / BilgilenmeHakki.Org Press Release
BilgilenmeHakki.Org / Bilgiedinmehakki.org published a report entitled How do you contact the Turkish Freedom of Information Council? In August 2004. Following the publication of this report, we started to monitor the implementation and application of the Turkish Right to Information Act No. 4982 by the 15 Ministries in Turkey. BilgilenmeHakki.Org / Bilgiedinmehakki.org published an 11 page report on the World Freedom of Information Day (only in Turkish for the moment) following its research conducted through-out August and early September 2004.

Firstly, BilgilenmeHakki.Org / Bilgiedinmehakki.org examined whether the 15 Ministries implemented the Right to Information Act according to the requirements set out in the implementation plan which was published as part of the related Regulations published in April 2004 following the law coming into force on 24 April, 2004. This part of the research was conducted by collecting data from the ministries’ websites. Following this research, we contacted each Ministry and made an access to information request with a set of standard questions. The report that analysed the responses and information provided by the Ministries is published at /doc/tr_uygulama_rapor.pdf in Turkish. An updated version of this report is available at /doc/tr_uygulama_rapor_upd1.pdf.

The summary of the BilgilenmeHakki.Org / Bilgiedinmehakki.org research is provided below:
• The Turkish Right to Information Act has been in force for approximately 5 months.
• All the 15 Ministries monitored in this report established their freedom of information units and started to accept access to information requests including requests sent through the Internet.
• We observed that the information provided in the Ministries’ websites was not standard. There are still freedom of information units with missing communication details and some do not provide full information about the law and the related regulations.
• The members of the public have started to use their right to information and several hundreds of requests have been made to the Ministries.
• 9 Ministries that provided a response and information received a total of 2519 access to information requests by mid August 2004. 1929 (%77) of these requests resulted with information being provided. 590 (%23) of these requests were denied information.
• The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs received the most requests (7265) and this Ministry did not deny information to any requests it received. So far the Ministry of Trade and Industry (197), and the Ministry of Defence (126) lead the chart of refusals.
• The Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Trade and Industry replied to the access to information requests providing detailed information within the same day of application and provided further information on follow-up questions within 24hrs.
• Despite the formation of freedom of information units, three Ministries, namely Ministry of Health, Minisitry of Labour and Social Security, and Ministry of Education, did not reply to the access to information requests within 15 working days as required by law. In fact, these four Ministries ignored the requests and have never been in touch with us.
• A reply from the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources is still expected. This Ministry was 3 months late in establishing its freedom of information unit and therefore a request was only made in early September 2004.
• The Ministry of Defence, and the Ministry of Social Prosperity and Housing replied but refused to provide the information requested but they did provide the information after we appealed and wrote them a second time.
• We also appealed the decision of the Ministry of Interior Affairs not to provide us with the requested information. We are still waiting to hear from this Ministry in terms of our appeal.
• It has been noticed that none of the Ministries provide communications details for the Right to Information Assessment (Review) Council. This information was not communicated to us in detail when we asked for it. As should be noted BilgilenmeHakki.Org published contact details for the Council in its August 2004 report.

The short history, and the implementation and application of the Turkish Right to Information Law by the 15 Ministries therefore provides a complex picture. Serious problems associated with the application of the Law have been documented in this research study and the four Ministries that failed to respond cast a dark shadow on some of the good work done in terms of implementation and application by other Ministries.

The enactment of a right to information law is a significant step towards openness, transparency, and democratisation in Turkey. But if the Law is applied in a very arbitray way by the Ministries, this means there are serious problems in terms of implementation. It should not be forgotten that the emactment of a Right to Information Law is only the first step towards openness and transparency in Turkey. But for a more open and transparent Turkey, the proper implementation and applications of the law is crucial.

BilgilenmeHakki.Org asked the Prime Ministry and the Right to Information Assessment (Review) Council to address the problems identified and witnessed in its research and report.

BilgilenmeHakki.Org will continue to monitor the developments in Turkey.

For further information please contact Dr. Yaman Akdeniz at lawya@cyber-rights.org
Dr. Yaman Akdeniz, Lecturer in CyberLaw, University of Leeds, United Kingdom. Director, Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK), and a 2003-04 Fellow of the International Policy and Information Policy Fellowship programmes of the Open Society Institute.

Turkey Grows More Transparent Every Day

Zaman Online, Turkey Grows More Transparent Every Day

Turkey’s institutions are becoming increasingly transparent as the country continues its march towards European Union (EU) membership.

The government took a giant leap towards the democratic government concept by enacting the Right to Information Act on March 24, 2004. The fact that Chief of General Staff General Hilmi Ozkok ordered that the expenditures and tenders of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) be opened to the inspection of the Court of Accounts also brought Turkey into line with European standards. After the Public Government Reform Act is put into effect, Turkey’s transparency will take on a whole new dimension.

The cabinet also supports the growing transparency, with Speaker of the Parliament Bulent Arinc preparing to open his position to inspection. Arinc, answering Zaman’s questions, confirmed that he started some studies for a new law that would open his position in the Parliament to inspection

Prime Ministry Getting Smaller

The administrative structure of the Prime Ministry draws the most attention because it larger than the presidential system of some countries. There are two main service units in the body of Prime Ministry, and it is predicted that many of the units could be closed or merged with other units.

The Right to Information Act is a milestone for the provision of the democratic and transparent government concept. Put into effect on March 24, the law grants citizens the right to acquire knowledge in accordance with the principles of equality, objectivity and clarity.

Foreigners living in Turkey will also be able to benefit from this law, since it was given an extensive scope. Anyone who wants to learn about the activities of public institutions and occupational institutions will be able to do so.