BilgilenmeHakki.Org publishes report about the Turkish Freedom of Information Council

On 09 August, 2004 BilgilenmeHakki.Org published a report in PDF format about the Turkish Right to Information Assessment (Review) Council. Following a BilgilenmeHakki.Org investigation the following conclusions are made in the report:

• The Turkish Right to Information Act is in force.
• A considerable number of public institutions established their freedom of information units and started to accept access to information requests including through the Internet.
• The public started to use their right to information and several thousands of requests have been made to public institutions.
• The members of the Right to Information Assessment (Review) Council have been identified, and the Council have been established.
• With the publication of this report it is now public knowledge that the Council is fully functional and deals with appeals.
• So far the Council dealt with 73 appeals and 29 of these have been investigated and decided.

However, following this BilgilenmeHakki.Org investigation further significant questions are raised:

• There is no other publicly available document which provides the contact details of the Right to Information Assessment (Review) Council apart from this BilgilenmeHakki.Org report. So how will the public lodge appeals if necessary?
• Why does not the Council have an established website?
• Why is not the Council subject to the same regulations as laid down above in so far as the implementation plan is concerned? The public institutions were required to launch their websites by 27 June, 2004. Why does not this regulation apply to the Council?
• Why doesn’t the Council make public its decisions?

The enactment of a right to information law is a significant step towards openness, transparency, and democratisation in Turkey. Within such a short time, a considerable number of public institutions established their freedom of information units and the Act is fully functional. However, there are significant problems and question marks about the establishment of the Right to Information Assessment (Review) Council. It is unfortunate that we can only get information about the Council via a right to information request to the Prime Ministry.

BilgilenmeHakki.Org therefore recommends that

• The Right to Information Assessment (Review) Council is immediately brought to sunshine.
• The Council publishes its decisions and provides reasons for rejected appeals.
• The public institutions are informed about the whereabouts of the Council and that they provide the public information about how to appeal to the Right to Information Assessment (Review) Council if necessary.

BilgilenmeHakki.Org will make its recommendations to the Prime Ministry with the publication of this report and will continue to monitor the developments in Turkey.

50+ Countries Pass Freedom of Information Laws, More Than Half in Last Decade

New Global Survey Shows Increasing Right to Know, Active International Movement for Open Government

Washington D.C., 12 May 2004 – More than 50 countries now have guaranteed their citizens the right to know what their government is up to, and more than half of these freedom of information laws passed in the last decade, according to an updated global survey posted today on the Web by the virtual network of openness advocates, freedominfo.org.

Four countries have adopted new freedom of information laws just since the last edition of the survey was posted in September 2003. The global survey released today was compiled and edited for freedominfo.org by David Banisar of the University of Leeds and Privacy International as the third in his series on the site, and includes links to the texts of laws and concise commentary on their effectiveness or lack thereof.

Turkish Right to Information Act comes into force

From Monday, the 26th of April, 2004 Turkish citizens will be able to test the Right to Information Act. However, the implementation process has not been completed, and in some instances not even started. The following issues should be noted:

  • Article 30 of the Right to Information Act required a regulatory document to be prepared by the Ministry of Justice concerning the essentials for the application of this law and put into force by the Council of Ministers. However, this important document has not been finalised yet and remains in draft format as of today.
  • Although the law came into force, it is not clear how long the implementation process will take place. There is no indication on when the public institutions will establish the required Right to Information offices within their institutions and when the officers working in such offices will be trained.
  • The Board of Review of the Access to Information which will review the administrative decisions rendered under the Act and which will make decisions on the exercise of the right to information regarding public authorities has not yet been established. There is no information whatsoever as to when this Review Body which will handle the appeals will be formally constituted.
  • The draft State Secrecy and Trade Secrets Bills have not been discussed in Parliament yet. Therefore, the limitations and the exemptions of the Right to Information Act have not been clarified yet.

    Dr. Yaman Akdeniz stated that:

    “It remains to be seen when the Turkish citizens will be able to use this important law effectively. The enactment of a right to information law is a significant step towards openness, transparency, and democratisation in Turkey. However, if the implementation is slow, the Act may never be fully functional. The government should avoid the three year delay witnessed in setting up the Turkish Competition Authority following the enactment of the Competition Law.”

BilgilenmeHakki.Org will be asking a number of Ministries about how and when they will be complying with the requirements of the Right to Information Act with a formal request under the Right to Information Act later this week.

For further information please contact Dr. Yaman Akdeniz at lawya@NOSPAMcyber-rights.org (remove NOSPAM before contacting)

A PDF version of this press release is also available.

EU Agreement on security procedures for the exchange of classified information

EU Agreement on security procedures for the exchange of classified information with  Bulgaria, Romania, Iceland, Norway, Turkey, Canada, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, the United States of America, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and FYROM

Press Note: BilgilenmeHakki.Org website received today a EU document entitled EU Agreement on security procedures for the exchange of classified information with a number of states including Turkey. This document was obtained from the Council of the European Union by Mr. David Banisar of Privacy International, a well known FOI expert under the EU public access to Council documents procedure.

The document made public for the first time by BilgilenmeHakki.Org lays out the security procedures for the exchange of classified information between the European Union and the above named states including Turkey, defining the purpose of cooperation and the reciprocal rules on the protection of the information exchanged.

The document states that “the EU has a permanent need for exchanging classified information with Bulgaria, Romania, Iceland, Norway, Turkey, Canada, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, the United States of America, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and FYROM.”

The document will be of interest to those interested in the issues of freedom of information and state secrecy and/or national security exemptions under such laws. The document is particularly of interest to the current Turkish debate on right to information and the state secrecy provisions provided under that legislation. The Turkish Ministry of Justice recently published a draft State Secrecy law which is yet to be debated at the Parliament.

For further information contact Dr. Yaman Akdeniz at lawya@NOSPAM.cyber-rights.org (please remove NOSPAM from the email address).

Notes from the EU Agreement which was approved by the Council (Justice and Home Affairs) on 26 November, 2003.

Article 2 of the Agreement defines classified information as follows:For the purposes of the present Agreement, classified information shall mean any information (namely, knowledge that can be communicated in any form) or material determined to require protection against unauthorized disclosure and which has been so designated by a security classification (hereafter: ‘classified information’).

Article 4 requires Each Party to
(a) protect and safeguard classified information subject to the present Agreement provided or exchanged by the other Party;
(b) ensure that classified information subject to the present Agreement provided or exchanged keeps the security classification given to it by the providing Party. The receiving Party shall protect and safeguard the classified information according to the provisions set out in its own security regulations for information or material holding an equivalent security classification, as specified in the Security Arrangements to be established pursuant to Articles 11 and 12;
(c) not use such classified information subject to the present Agreement for purposes other than those established by the originator and those for which the information is provided or exchanged;
(d) not disclose such classified information subject to the present Agreement to third parties, or to any EU institution or entity not mentioned in Article 3, without the prior consent of the originator.

You can read the full document entitled EU Agreement on security procedures for the exchange of classified information with a number of states including Turkey.

You can also see and read the final version of the EU agreement with revisions – to track the changes made to the original document.

Freedom of Information Conference took place in Istanbul on 26 February, 2004

The conference was organised by Istanbul Bilgi University, Faculty of Law and Human Rights Law Research Center, the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV), and Cyber Rights & Cyber Liberties a UK based pressure group (http://www.cyber-rights.org).

The enactment of the Right to Information Law was the main subject of this important conference. Considering that the Turkish Law will come into effect on 24 April 2004, the speakers discussed the impact of the law on Turkey, how the law will be implemented and to what extent it will achieve openness and transparency in Turkey. The recently made public draft state secrecy and trade secrets laws (two separate bills) were also discussed during the conference.

09.30 – 09.45 Opening Speeches

09.45 – 10.45 Panel I: THE RIGHT TO INFORMATION ACT

(From left:) Prof. Dr. İl Han Özay, Prof. Dr. Turgut Tarhanı, Mehmet, Ziya Yergök, Prof. Dr. Haluk Şahin

Chairperson: Professor Turgut Tarhanlı
Dean, Faculty of Law, Istanbul Bilgi University,

Speakers:
Professor Il Han Özay; Faculty of Law, Istanbul University Head of the Administrative Law Department
Mehmet Ziya Yergok ; Member, Parliamentary Justice Commission, Turkey
Professor Haluk Sahin; Faculty of Communication, Istanbul Bilgi University

11.30 – 12.30 Panel II: HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE RIGHT TO INFORMATION

(From left:) Helen Darbishire, Mehmet Elkatmış, Dr. Yaman Akdeniz, JohanWilhelmsson, Andrew Puddephatt

Chairperson: Dr. Yaman Akdeniz
Lecturer in Cyber Law, Department of Law, University of Leeds, UnitedKingdom
Director, Cyber Rights-Cyber Liberties, United Kingdom

Speakers:
Mehmet Elkatmis; President, Parliamentary Commission of Human Rights, Turkey
Johan Wilhelmsson; Independent Expert, Council of Europe Legal Adviser, Ministry of Justice,Sweden
Andrew Puddephatt ; Executive Director, Article 19
Helen Darbishire; Senior Program Manager – Freedom of Information and Expression Program Open Society Justice Initiative

14.00 – 15.00 Panel III : STATE SECRETS AND THE RIGHT TO INFORMATION

(From left:) Av. Fikret İlkiz, Prof. Dr. Uğur Alacakaptan, ZekeriyaŞarbak, İsmet Berkan

Chairperson: Professor Ugur Alacakaptan
Member of the Board of Trustees, Istanbul Bilgi University

Speakers:
Zekeriya Sarbak; Deputy Under-Secretary, Ministry of the Interior, Turkey
Ismet Berkan; Editor in-Chief, Radikal
Fikret Ilkiz; Attorney, Istanbul Bar Association

15.45 – 16.45 Panel IV : ECONOMIC SECRETS, ECONOMIC INTERESTSOF THE STATE AND THE RIGHT TO INFORMATION

(From left:) Oktay Varlıer, Doç. Dr. Leyla Keser Berber, Prof. Dr.Ali Necip Ortan, Dr. Çağlar Manavgat

Chairperson: Assistant Professor Leyla Keser
Faculty of Law, Istanbul Bilgi University

Speakers:
Professor Ali Necip Ortan; Faculty of Law, Istanbul Bilgi University
Dr. Caglar Manavgat; Director, Legal Affairs Department, Capital Markets Board of Turkey
Ozcan Tulumen; Member of the Boards of Directors, The Union of Chamber for Commerce,Industry, Maritime Trade and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey
Representative of the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmens Association

16.45 – 17.15 Discussion

Turkey Enacts Freedom of Information Law – October 2003

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.