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.